Reviewed in India on 9 November 2015
In what claims to be a revised edition of master storyteller Paro Anand’s fantastic collection of short stories, find yourself immersed in the world of gritty teens and their terrific tales at the turn of every page. Featuring twenty stories, few of which have appeared previously, Like Smoke is one book that every teen should delve into at some point or the other, simply for that reassurance that spoken words cannot give.
The Love, War, Religion, Racism, Heartbreak and Death contained in these stories are all explored from a different perspective – one that you may have never had, or which you once did and have now forgotten. Be it “Those Yellow Flowers of August,” “Wild Child,” or “City Boy,” care has been taken to not reveal the plot of the story in the title – to leave the reader guessing and gasping at the end of every sentence. They speak of violent outbursts, mind numbing loss, and irreparable damage, but I’m not sure how to phrase the feelings associated with these stories. While one may identify completely with a particular character, there is a sense of underlying anonymity as well. While you cling to certain memories, even those you’d like to forget, while you relive the pain and suffering even if you don’t want to, while you shed a tear or tremble with shock even if you never meant to, no one will know that it is you. You - right there on the page, doing, feeling and thinking the exact same way another one is. It’s a sense of security really, someone “putting into words” something you could never speak about, which you can contemplate and brood over in the silence of your mind. You realize that you really aren’t the only one - there is more going on out there than meets the eye, as a child finds out in “Jamie Jamson and I..” Curiously, some stories have been written in third person (she then..) with perfect language, while others are in first person, (I did not..) replete with everyday teenage slang and randomized writing (that’s totally awesome..that sucks). This propels the reader into further becoming one with the protagonist until at the end of the story, it takes a while to come back to where you really are, in the comfort of your own life – whatever it may be.
To be honest, I’m not very familiar with Paro Anand’s style of writing but this really is a brilliant piece of work. While she advises dipping into it every now and then, I read the whole book at one shot, because I wasn’t supposed to, but so what – I loved it anyway. Featuring a blend of personal anecdotes and reality in fiction, employing humour, sarcasm and instilling hope and relief in the reader, it works as a soother, a scarer and a surpriser. I made up these two words, but there wasn’t a more apt one I could find. Maybe by using my style of writing, I’ll get you to think the way I do..just like Paro Anand does, each and every time!
~ Teesta Rawal