Life Over Two Beers by Sanjeev Sanyal

A few years ago I had the pleasure to listen to the author Sanjeev Sanyal speak at a lit fest, and coincidentally the same one concluded this weekend online while I finished the book. Talk about coincidences! I took my time with his book, with short stories I always do. You see, I need the gaps to swirl the stories in my head and think about them before I can move on to the next one.

The cover reminded me of another fantastic book I read this year, Mahesh Rao’s Polite Society. The writing is lovely but that I already know from having read his nonfiction. I was surprised to find a few poems in the book. He’s honest in the acknowledgements that he’d always wanted to write a book of short stories focused on satire, and he has done just that. I liked some stories more than others; some were too factual or too short for me to register its impact.  Most of the stories have endings which turns them on their head which is reminiscent of classical short story writers.

Reading the stories I got the feeling that he enjoys taking down snobs a peg or two. The tone of the book is somewhere between taking potshots, and gentle ribbing. I can’t help thinking he must have hobnobbed with the rich and the famous. He has observed their world from close quarters because the stories have an element of truth in them. Reading about what goes on in government offices was equally fascinating and horrifying. In a story discrepancies in testing are exposed which assumes greater significance during the pandemic we’re living through.

I read the first story last because I had forgotten to read it (not a case of saving the best for the last). I enjoyed the description of the lit fest in the story not just because I have attended it but because it rang true. I felt like the author had fun (gleeful is the word I’m looking for) writing the stories. A searing and witty book. For fear of giving out spoilers, which will ruin these stories, I am mentioning my favorites that include The Used Car Salesman, Books, The Intellectuals, The Caretaker, The Conference Call, The Troll and Life Over Two Beers. I’ll be waiting for his next installment of short stories because we all need a bit of satire in our lives to make the harsh truths palatable.

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