Updated: Feb 7, 2022
Looking for short stories I often delve into O. Henry or Somerset Maugham but all thanks to Captain Beetashok Chatterjee, I got to read short stories set up in a contemporary environment with the lingo that has not only the charm of yesteryears but also resonates with the youth. The People Tree by Beetashok provides the perfect potpourri that gives the essence of a writer seeped in experience and shows how well travelled he is.
The name of the book ‘The People Tree—stories about us and them’ is enough for the readers to understand the content. Beetashok Chatterjee in his foreword ‘welcomes you to sit in the shade of The People Tree to taste the fruit from his Tree of Life; read stories of the lives of some ordinary and some extraordinary people amongst us.’
Yes, The People Tree is a book of the people, for the people, by one of the seasoned ‘people’ who has very conscientiously used his traveling experiences in weaving tales that take us across the different diaspora of society.
This is the second book coming from the author. The first one ‘Driftwood, stories washed ashore’ was an anthology of sea stories. It had a plethora of tales a sailor man had to tell. But this book is a bang opposite, carrying tales from different walks of life.
Published by Readomania the book is indeed a treat for the readers. The book covers fourteen short stories. As we read the book, we are introduced to several events in the past that had taken the nation in a grip at a particular point in time. The author talks about the times of Operation Bluestar, Ground Zero, INA, Shivaji, Morris Eight vintage car, art theft in London, etc. The author has not only told us stories but has meticulously weaved them around some of the other historical events in a contemporary fashion that would be easily resonating to the young readers as well; thus, brilliantly bringing out multifaceted stories with different backgrounds.
The style of writing the stories is engaging and gripping. The author has used simple yet enriching language. The book is peppered with local dialects, which renders a flavour of the place where the story is happening. Interspersed with humour, the book is nothing but a delight to read.
The very first story took me back to childhood when we would often travel by train. The mention of the coach number and the description of the opening story ‘The Little Oxford Dictionary’ definitely rendered a nostalgic touch. The story talks about a south Indian in a northern railway station boarding S4, talking about MCO’s and JCO’s taking the readers to the army cantonment. The platform, the train, and the protagonist encounter with some dicey people and a reunion, Beetashok Chatterjee has crafted an era within a short story. The lines ‘Yes, I heard a perfect stranger in the middle of the night, in the interiors of Punjab, asking me to get off the train – in Tamil’ is a small example of how the author has grabbed the attention of the reader right from the start.
Reading ‘Course Correction’ and ‘The Good Neighbour’ one can literally visualize a thriller movie, packed with action. The stories keep the readers on their toes.
‘The Holy Trinity’ talks about friendship in a foreign land with an undercurrent of humour. Where on one hand ‘Ground Zero’ talks about the brave hearts who witnessed the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center, ‘Do You Want to Know A Secret?’ talks about a silent love affair between two souls from different religions and falling prey to socio political traps. The story felt so real that it left me pondering if it was actually inspired by a real life incident.
‘A Day at the Races’ makes your adrenalin rush with that of the protagonist as he places his bet to win back his money at a race course. ‘Two Close for Comfort’ is another story breaking stereotypes. The story told by a daughter about her mother and her girlfriend has different twist and turns. ‘Up in the Air’, a story on a steamy romance speaks volumes about the author’s dexterity in his writing in completely a different genre within the short stories. ‘Come Home’ is one story coming from the heart of a mother. How the author has done it is indeed very surprising!
‘The City’ takes us on a curious adventure of siblings where fate takes them under a historical hero’s protection. Who is the legendary figure? You’ll have to read the story to find out.
‘Leaves that are Green’ talks about the positive notes of life. ‘The Vintage Car Rally’ is one of my favourites. It takes the reader to the yesteryears and the love for cars. Last but not the least ‘Heartbreak’ talks of the one sided love of a teenager, that left me pondering again if the character was fictitious, or someone from real life?
Beetashok Chatterjee’s storytelling skills are par excellence that stir different emotions in the readers while reading. The beauty of the book is that each story is fast-paced and gripping, yet covering a span of time. Each story presented in the book is unique and different from the other. The title of each story is very diligently picked by the author that smoothly hints towards what to expect in the story.
In the book The People Tree, Captain Beetashok Chatterjee has silenced his critics by showing that he can write not only stories of the sea, but he also has a good grip over a plethora of tales from different walks of life.
Review by Shristee Singh
Beetashok Chatterjee was a ship's captain by profession. He joined the Merchant Navy at a young age and loved it, retiring only after having completed more than 45 years at sea.
This old sea dog lives in New Delhi, India, with his memories and a wife, son and daughter. His hobbies include listening to Western music, reading fiction and watching cricket. He also loves good Hollywood and Bollywood movies.And chilled beer.
His first collection of short stories ‘Driftwood—stories washed ashore’ surprised him with the favourable response it got and he decided that this is what he wanted to do for the rest of his life—write. He is also the author of a second volume of stories ‘The People Tree—stories about us and them’, that have nothing to do with the sea.
Beetashok can be contacted at:
Linked In: https://www.linkedin.com/in/beetashok-chatterjee-b84979b3/