Millennium Post

Treading an unaccustomed earth

Treading an unaccustomed earth
He makes it dark, makes it grim, makes it tough, but then, for the love of God, also tells us a joke. Uday Gupt in his first ever book Final Cut does all of this with amazing dexterity.

The book brings to the readers a collection of six short stories and a short novella, all written to amuse, tickle and trigger the brain to solve mysteries, and keep the reader constantly on the edge trying to run ahead of the author and decipher the hidden plots. While the reader may find it easy to solve the mystery in a couple of stories, most surprise as they end. In a few cases, they may even shock.

Writing a thriller is not easy and Gupt manages to complete this ‘not-so-easy task’ with a mix of beauty and intelligence. ‘Hodson’s Gold,’ the first story of the book, leads the readers into a quest for ‘legacy’. A code hidden in a poem transports the readers to an address in Delhi and wrecks their nerves. The story starts with the Mutiny of 1857 and ends in the 21st century, with some very colourful characters playing along in the process.

‘Friends’, the next tale is about two friends making it big in life. This story has one of the most unexpected ends and the twist in the narrative almost throws you off gear as the plot is revealed eventually. In ‘It Happens Only In India’, a three-time Pulitzer Prize winner in quest for a fourth, comes to Sonagachi, the red light district of Kolkata, and discovers to his utter disbelief and dismay how India is completely a different country What thrills the most comes next. ‘Will Reena?’ is a short novella.

Though the protagonist has set up a successful business and made it big in the city, the reader is made to confront the less glamorous and murkier sides of success. S/he too ends up asking ‘Will Reena?’ and just like all other pieces in the book, the mystery is sustained right till the end.

‘The Last Supper’ familiarises readers with the unexpected secrets of a painting, while ‘Buddha Purnima’ is about a miracle that happens at Sarnath near Varanasi on the auspicious day.  ‘Final Cut,’ the last story of the book, is about magic, religion and superstition in circa 2011 Kolkata and how these three elements change the fortunes of a man.

Gupt, through his art of narration, proves that stories are the wildest thing of all. They intrigue, chase, hunt and amuse. Each of Gupt’s stories, as John Berger, the author of Keeping a Rendezvous, said, has a roof and four walls. They are complete and as a reader, one can inhabit them. The swift change of time periods, such as the one seen in the very first story, does not leave any jarring effects. The author comfortably switches from one era to the other with ease and succeeds in creating the ambience in its finest details for the readers in each of his stories.

The language flows making the book an easy, apart from interesting, read. His use of humour is subtle and comes in naturally making the reading experience smooth and engaging. You want to reach the end of each story quickly, not because it’s boring but because you are curious to unravel the mystery.

The characters of each story, especially the protagonists, have been set free. They respond to situations and not to the author’s whims and fancies. They laugh, joke, celebrate and succumb to situations just as normal people do. But they are faced with abnormal situations described in great and yet not boring details. They make you think, ‘It could have been me’. Gupt knows his places and describes Delhi, Kolkata, Mumbai and even Varanasi with equal panache. But the beauty of the stories perhaps lies in the fact that they are just normal plots that have very unexpected and shocking ends.
Vandana Singh

Vandana Singh

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