Short stories are always captivating. They are akin to instant noodles — quick, yet highly satisfying. So, when I got an opportunity to read the book Encounters – Someone’s Always Waiting by Sumana Khan, I grabbed, both the opportunity and the book with both hands!
A review of the book — Encounters
A glimpse of the book cover of Encounters
Let me start this review with the book cover. The cover in itself is a little spooky imparting a sepia feel with the picture of a lake surrounded by trees, marshy areas, and a boat in the middle.
If one observes the reflections in the water keenly, one can make out the reflection of a person who is actually not sitting in the boat as well! (Or am I the only one to observe this…hallucinations…after reading the stories, is it?!)
Browse through the blurb of Encounters
The blurb promises some exciting paranormal adventures and the stories live up to the expectation generated by the blurb.
“ENCOUNTERS is a potpourri of five sumptuous stories involving a motley crew of protagonists. Skating along the borders of fantasy and paranormal themes, the stories track incredible and poignant journeys of self-discovery, tracing the cathartic aftermath of fleeting encounters.”
The language used in the Encounters
The language used is simple English with doses of the local lexical terms of the place -where a particular story is set, that adds authenticity to the other stories.
A peek into each of the Encounters
‘First Love’ is narrated by Ratna — the Protagonist, who is an obedient child to her ever dominating parents. She meets Vrak- a back-packer on her 18th birthday under strange circumstances when she visits her family temple and is infatuated by him.
She keeps encountering him often and ultimately falls in love. Meanwhile, her marriage is fixed with Surya though they are poles apart in their interests and he sexually abuses her just after their first meeting. Post this sexual abuse at the hands of Surya, Ratna is hospitalized and it is here that she also gets the news that Surya has been killed on a trip to a Wildlife Sanctuary.
Is Surya’s death a murder or an accident? Then, does Ratna marry Vrak? The answers to these questions form the crux of this story. There are many hard-hitting lines in the story and some wonderful and thought-provoking statements like:
“My parents perceive me as an extra piece of luggage that must be given away. On account of my gender”
“They see me as a dishonorable, incomplete entity, who must be lassoed viciously, brought back into the pen, made complete by a man and a life-role that is deemed honourable for a woman”
“Time is a non-existent dimension when you love what you do”
Murugan Sundaresan is the narrator of this story and he is on his way to Karaikal in Tamil Nadu, through a small village called Thirukadal situated along the shore. He meets Raman Durai enroute and is engrossed in a conversation, so much so that he loses track of his time and ends up literally sleeping there. But by morning, Durai is not to be seen around!
This story revolves around a tsunami and the imagery used is indeed commendable. The magnitude of the loss of lives and the memories of the tragedy is bound to leave one in tears.
The ending of this story is touching and will leave the readers with goosebumps. The minute detailing, realistic descriptions, and imagery is the USP of this story.
I would term this story ‘romantic’ as it wonderfully depicts the love in a husband and wife relationship. The small triumphs like buying a Mixie or Fan and the celebrations that follow such purchases are so very relatable with the joys of a middle-class family and this is well portrayed in this story through the lives of Raghavan and Radha.
The incidents are realistic in its descriptions and the end is again quite stirring. I loved the humorous monologues of Raghavan, some of which are as follows:
“In the third bhajan, SPB wept while singing some words backward”
“Now in our house, M.S.Subbulakshmi had started waking up Vishnu”
This story deals with the apprehensions that follow in a person’s life post-retirement. The protagonist in this story ‘Seshadri’ is trapped in a personality and identity crisis and is irritated and frustrated as he feels that he is worthless after his retirement.
He accidentally meets a doctor at the Happiness Clinic also called ‘Seshadri’ who helps him to come out of his mental break down and apprehensions. Through this doctor, Seshadri discovers the capability of his wife and also changes his perspective towards life.
When everything goes well in his life, he decides to meet and thank the doctor ‘Seshadri’ who guided him, only to realize that the clinic was present ‘Once upon a time‘ and not in the recent past! What happens to the doctor and where did he disappear? To know this, you need to read the book!
Best Friends Forever
Dr. Srinidhi – a psychiatrist meets Prerna-his patient, out of compulsion, and gets drawn to her as he deals with her case. Alice is a dear friend of Prerna and she has been a constant companion since Prerna’s childhood but she isn’t visible to anyone except Pammi.
The psychiatrist manages to rescue the sinking Hallidays, as well as their daughter Alice and how he does and why forms the storyline. The scenes of Pammi speaking like Alice and vice versa reminded me of Ashley from Sidney Sheldon’s “Tell Me Your Dreams”.
The narration of this story is gripping and sometimes mind-numbing. Be ready to dive into the macabre world with this story.
Parting words on the Encounters
Apart from the nail-biting narration, the apt pace of the stories, the writer-Sumana Khan should also be commended for infusing some witty and humorous dialogues and monologues and for dealing with sensitive themes like sexual abuse and gender bias. I completely enjoyed reading this book! Go for this book for some nail-biting finish 🙂
I give this book a rating of 4.5 / 5!
Btw, please do leave a comment if you too observed an extra reflection in the waters of the lake on the book cover!
Title of the book: Encounters
Author: Sumana Khan
Publishers: CinnamonTeal Publishing
Total Pages: 155
Genre: Short Stories/ Paranormal Thriller