We are all greedy folks. Give us a book of short stories and we quickly calculate the shortest story in the book. Mental math done, shortest story (or one of the shortest stories, depending on your addition and subtraction skills) identified, we land up on page 1 of that story.
Now if you’ve done the same for Rupa Gulab’s I Kissed a Frog & other stories (Pan Books, Rs 250) and read a story titled The Princess and the Pea Pate, chances are that was your first AND last story of the book.
Divided into three sections — Love and Other Four-letter Words, The Friendship Diaries and Not-so-grim Fairy Tales for Big, Bad Girls, — the book tries really hard. And that’s hardly the biggest drawback.
Assuming you didn’t begin on the bad (pea pate) note and adopted the regular approach by reading the stories in sequence, you start with Hell’s Angel. Here it is in a nutshell. Girl dumps Boy. Girl woos new Hot Boy. Girl gets wooed by Fat Boy. Girl gets Hot Boy. Girl realises she loves Fat Boy. And starts him on a diet.
The second story, Love in F Major, is ever so slightly better. Boy dumps Girl. Girl starts affair with Married Boss. Married Boss moves in. Girl decides she doesn’t like moved-in man whose seductive musk is replaced by chest decongesting eucalyptus oil. They break up and live happily ever after. Separately.
The third one, Welcome to the Sisterhood, is well, about Boy becoming Girl. And his girlfriend becoming his best friend. Sorry, can’t tell more. Couldn’t go beyond page four. The last story in this section, Heavy Weather, is exactly like a Manmohan Desai film. Girl reunites with Boy. With a cellphone that’s washed away and no addresses exchanged, suddenly, after many months.
The second section of the book has five stories, all featuring besties. Mom turned bestie, bestie hooking up with boyfriend, diet-warring besties, on-the-death-bed bestie and so on.
The last section begins with The Princess and the Pea Pate. Now, if you have read it right in the beginning, chances are that you are still reeling. Anyhow, read the other seven stories in this section at your own risk. Remember, it’s called Not-so-grim Fairy Tales for Big, Bad Girls but the stories are all grim and quite bad. But thankfully short, not big.
Which is the worst book you’ve read recently? Tell firstname.lastname@example.org