This debut collection of short stories examines the complexity of human connections in urban India.

The Indian metropolis depicted in these 16 tales is a place of opposing forces. Amid the chaotic swirl of urban life, strangers are thrown together by chance while others are dramatically and surprisingly riven apart. The collection opens with a story titled “Receding Shoreline,” which describes an engineer and his wife awaiting the arrival of a dinner guest at an upscale restaurant. When the guest appears, what was first perceived as an innocuous dinner date suddenly becomes a pivotal moment in the couple’s marriage. The theme of unexpected encounters is pervasive throughout the volume. In the title story, the narrator makes eye contact with a young woman while battling rush-hour traffic in Bangalore. He then seeks out her red compact daily to enjoy a silent exchange. Other tales, such as “No Time for a Joke,” about riding in a Kolkata taxi, and “Everyone Needs Closure,” which features a college student returning home to Bengal, also focus on peculiar meetings but have chilling paranormal twists. Dasgupta introduces an admirable range of characters, from codebreakers to corporate climbers, all of whom have distinct voices and personalities. His attention to detail is epitomized by his tender portrayal of Nayna sitting in rush-hour gridlock in the title story: “Nayna’s hair was tied in a loose bun and carelessly clipped at the back. Unruly locks hung on her nape, and another caressed her cheek….The tail lights from the cars threw a red hue on her and brought a pang of inexplicable warmth in my heart.” The author is skilled at creating such serene moments of intimacy in scenes of chaos as well as equally unanticipated jolts that spring violently from quietude. His book bears the marks of a perceptive writer, although his preoccupation with the machinations of corporate life may not be for everyone, and his prose appears to burn most brightly when evoking the hubbub of Indian traffic and street life. Still, this is a delightfully idiosyncratic portrait of urban India riddled with sophisticated and unpredictable twists.

Masterful Indian tales, showcasing slick, expressive writing.

PLOT: 4/5

Parting of the Strangers and Other Stories is a collection of sixteen odd short stories written mostly in the first-person narrator “I”. The characterisation is minimal as Dasgupta stresses on building up eventful plots. The stories are filled with an aura of surprise and suspense at the same time.

The plots are clean with very little cluttering. It mentions only what is absolutely necessary and required to allow for the stories to flow smoothly through. In this sense the plots are rather linear and far from intricate. Their complexity comes in holding up of the suspense till the very last word.

The stories in Parting of the Strangers and Other Stories reveal themselves slowly. Most of them deal with characters who are professionals in technical fields or engaged in simple everyday activities like driving, talking or doing some work.

It is a view into the relations of the adult world and the equations that men and women share mostly at work. Their professional and personal lives intermingle in these interactions that makes them share bits of themselves with others. Dasgupta focuses on trying to bring out the extraordinary in the ordinary. The tediousness of modern life is central to his stories.

From simple friendships, to momentary attraction, lust, extra marital affairs and other matters of the heart; the themes of the stories revolve around sensitive issues with a very casual and easy-going style of writing.

The narrative style has a suave that helps deal with these moments of difficulty. The stories are rather sad if not morbid as some of them end unhappily while others have positive endings though not exactly happy endings. But such is life and acceptance in dealing with situations is of foremost importance. In this sense, the stories are also realistic.

It is not to undermine the fact that they are very much relevant to modern work life. The balance between work and personal life is hard to maintain. It is this aspect that is highlighted the most.

It is in human nature to develop personal relations with colleagues and work mates but at times it may be difficult to draw the line. Most of the stories are sensitive, simple and emotional.

The language in Parting of the Strangers and Other Stories is free flowing with well framed dialogues and short sentences. Most of the stories are just about 3-4 pages long or less than that.

There is an interesting use of a simple but well-structured style of writing that very well suits the engineer in Dasgupta. This structured writing is matched with a proper choice of vocabulary that adds to the terseness of the text.

He also has an eye for detail that makes the plot descriptive and analytical. Everything is narrated to the reader who can sit back, relax and enjoy these short reads in a single sitting.

His focus is on moments and the dilemmas that the stories create and put individuals into. Characterisation is minimal and readers know little background information about the characters.

The stories also show how people put other people in difficult times that leads to a change of heart. These are the very same people who were once trustworthy acquaintances. How friends become foes and strangers become friends reflects that it only takes a moment to turn things around and relationships are full of many such memorable moments; both good and bad.

In Parting of the Strangers and Other Stories, Dasgupta delves into the little things in life. It is these little things that at one time make people elated like a woman who is expecting a baby or make people crumble into sorrow (like betrayal). It is all a part of life which does not come with a manual to work around and human nature is bound to remain unpredictable.

Dasgupta seems to be suggesting that one may not validate all the emotions they feel (both positive and negative) but one must acknowledge that they exist.

Can’t wait to read it? Buy your copy of Parting of the Strangers and Other Stories using the link below.


Parting of the Strangers, by Sattam Dasgupta
Genre: Short Stories, Contemporary, Indian
The book offers 16 short stories, set up in metro cities and based on one or the other life situations, that we all have been in, making them highly relatable. There are a lot of subjects here – family, love, death, fidelity, parenting, loss, ethics and more. The stories are titled well making them intriguing enough right at the start. Sample this – ‘Green Tea in Bone China’, ‘Speakerphone’ or even ‘Porcelain Fingers’.
I’m often at the edge while reading short stories. Of course I expect them to be short or just the right length, but more importantly they have to be engaging, substantial or even worthwhile. This book made me quite happy on this front. Most stories got me very curious and retained my otherwise flickering attention span, and often ended with an ‘aha’ or ‘wow’. The author strikes a good balance between attention to detail and just enough to not-make-it- boring. This helps a lot in understanding the characters and relate to their situations as well.
I enjoy reading about human emotions and that is nuanced a lot in these stories… affection and tacit understanding of siblings, love and frustration of a married couple, trust and mentoring of colleagues or even unsaid long lost love between friends. A common thread that runs through most of the stories is that there is often someone in your life that you think you know very well, but often surprises you with an eerie strangeness. And this, at times, can be deeply hurtful.
Overall a good read. Read it to reflect on some of your relationships and if there is strangeness in them.
Rating: 🌟🌟🌟🌟/5

Parting of the Strangers and Other Stories