Tag Archives: Akhil Sharma

A Life of Adventure and Delight by Akhil Sharma

Title: A Life of Adventure and Delight
Author: Akhil Sharma
Publisher: Hamish Hamilton, Penguin Random House India
ISBN: 978-0670089024
Genre: Short Stories, Literary Fiction
Pages: 208
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5 Stars

Akhil Sharma is the kind of writer who gets under your skin, whether you like it or not. I was apprehensive of reading “An Obedient Father” a long time ago (and still haven’t by the way), but I did read “Family Life” in 2015 I think and it completely swept me by my knickers. The book was emotional and yet not sentimental, it was wry and not funny, it showed me facets to the human condition and made me see some people differently, which very few books manage to do. His third book and this time a collection of short stories titled, “A Life of Adventure and Delight” does just the some – maybe in a lot more measure but sure does hit the spot.

His writing is raw and quite grounded and maybe that is what attracts me to it. This is a collection of eight stories about Indians living abroad and at home. The stories range across various themes – love, the suddenness of it all, loneliness, grief – the stories are just a way of glancing in another’s life – to perhaps relate to it (most of us do and sometimes we don’t admit to it as well) and thus know the fragile ways in which we live.

The stories are diverse and yet there is a commonality to them all – the universe of human emotions is all but the same in these stories. Each one can stand alone and yet the binding factor of human loneliness, cruelty, baggage and how we just wait for another day of happiness is overwhelming, only sometimes to the point of being repulsive. Why repulsive? Because you so want these characters to stand up and take control and yet even though they want to do that, life doesn’t quite turn out that way.

Don’t be fooled by the title of the short-story collection. The lives of characters are neither adventurous nor delightful. So the play of title works only till the time you start the first story. His stories are about fragile relationships and all that goes with this territory. For instance, “If You Sing Like That for Me” is about grief – and how a song finds itself in it so beautifully that I could not stop thinking about. And the story is about love – the love a woman feels for her husband. Trust Mr. Sharma to turn this one on its head.

On the other hand there is the title story about relationships, to what extent we trust and what goes on when humans are just humans who are flawed. The writing doesn’t seem wasted at all. Every word is in place and every sentence and description deserves that attention. It is extremely well-crafted and exquisitely interwoven (not literally but from a broader theme perspective).

All said and done “A Life of Adventure and Delight” is a short-story collection where almost every character yearns to be happy and will go against every social grain or norm to find it, only to see and realize that life works very differently.

Family Life by Akhil Sharma

Family Life by Akhil Sharma Title: Family Life
Author: Akhil Sharma
Publisher: Hamish Hamilton, Penguin Books India
ISBN: 9780670087457
Genre: Literary Fiction
Pages: 240
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5/5

I have always enjoyed a good dysfunctional family story. Somehow, I see my family in it. Somehow, it is true. All families are like that. There is always this undercurrent of tension, of nerves, of issues that are not spoken out loud, and of silences.

“Family Life” is a book of grand proportions. It is also written with the objective, I think to let the reader fill in some spaces, and rightly so, I mean, after all, why should a writer spoon-feed the reader all the time?
Akhil Sharma’s writing is nothing like what I have read in the past. I wanted to read, “An Obedient Father” but never got around to it. So “Family Life” came by and was my first Sharma book. The book is about a family who moves to the US of A and how their lives change forever.

The Mishras (parents and two children, Birju and Ajay) move to America in the 70s, hoping and dreaming of a better life, getting away from the Emergency period in the country. America is full of hope and promise. Birju, the older one is the smart one – with the good grades and a great future, till an accident in the swimming-pool leaves him brain-damaged and Ajay is left to pick up the pieces of a life, torn apart. The father becomes a drunk. The mother loses sight of everything else and only wants to take care of Birju. Ajay on the other hand, does not know what to do and how to grow up in a strange country.

The book is dark. The writing is also funny at times. There were times I wish things would change for the family, but then it would not be the story that it is. Akhil Sharma weaves a story of too many layers – of ambition, loss, living, forgetting, escaping and the condition of the human heart in all of this. “Family Life” is a book for you, only if you want to know about a slice-of-life, close up and personal. A great read this summer.

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