Title: Peasants at a party and other stories
Author: Sona Maniar
Publisher: Notionpress. com
Price: Rs 200
A big book is evil. But a slim book is a blessing. “Sona Maniar’s book Peasants at a party and other stories vindicates Mark Twain’s pithy observation. This thin book contains stories of contemporary corporate life. The author herself belongs to the corporate world and is a mandarin in a large engineering conglomerate. So you can safely assume that her crisp stories aren’t based on vicarious experiences. They come straight from the horse’s mouth, to quote a popular idiom. Corporate world is not very different from general or quotidian life. The denizens of the contemporary corporate world don’t belong to a vastly different planet that masses can’t relate to them and vice versa.
In this context, the reviewer is unable to resist from quoting a profound couplet of Dr Allama Iqbal that helps drive home the point: “Haqeeqat ek hai har shai ki, khaaki ho ya noori/ Lahoo khursheed ka tapke agar zarre ka dil cheerein” (The reality of every being is same whether earthly or ethereal/ The blood of the sun oozes out when the heart of a mere particle is cut open).
To contextualise this, Sona’s corporate world also has people with universal human traits and attributes, especially the negative qualities that we are all fraught with. This deep understanding stoked her creative passion and resulted in a clutch of nice stories that depict human emotions and limn a picture of collective relatability. Having been integral to the corporate world and culture, Sona has a ringside view of the things and shenanigans that take place in this specific domain.
Every story needs an introspective pause and the reader cannot segue into the other story or stories seamlessly. English critic I A Richards called it ‘a linkable association/ assimilation’. Readers can feel a linkable association with Maniar even by reading any story at random or desultorily.
Love, greed, bitching, adultery, Oedipus Complex (read the story ‘December’), all human emotions find manifestations in Sona’s stories. They hit the nail on the head. The book is a compilation of her stories, appeared in scores of national and international publications over the years. There’s no meandering quality about the stories. They begin and end smoothly and seldom go awry.
And from the perspective of stylistics and language, she has written her stories in chaste, contemporary English but has a palpable proclivity to flaunt her pedantry and command of English, which may earn her the sobriquet of a ‘bluestocking’ by the sneering readers. Hope, her future creative endeavours shall be even better and much more gripping with less linguistic ostentation/ gymnastics.
To encapsulate, the book is readable and the corporate folks may like it. But the million dollar question is: Do these guys read? Nonetheless, general readers will appreciate Sona’s maiden attempt at writing a hugely readable book.