When you take a stroll down to your local library, you’ll find books of strong character, with out-of-the-world protagonists who one can only fantasize about being. It’s always the hero, the heroine, and sometimes even the villain; it’s always a story of someone distinct from the crowd. In a row full of extraordinary characters, Bobby Sachdeva brings to the reader an ordinary character. The everyday stories that we often overlook, written with intricacies that make the reader pause and ponder.

Sachdeva’s latest release, Stories Of Us, is a collection of forty-one short stories that bring to you the narrative of a common folk’s life. The language of the stories reflects the simplicity of an ordinary life. The stories read like the pallu of a cotton saree, offering the reader gentle warmth of relatabilty in a world where we have been conditioned to constantly strive to reach the top of the ladder.

The book begins with a story called Boarding Pass. This story consists of a mere conversation between two men waiting in line for their flight: while one man is a Business Class passenger, the other is travelling in Economy Class but is too embarrassed to accept it. The story ends with both men leaving to their respective seats. Through a very brief, relatable incident, Sachdeva manages to question the idea of class and the perils of class consciousness being embedded in our minds, so much so, that we’re embarrassed of who we are.

Along the same lines of the difference in class, is a story called Dinner Date. The story begins as a romantic endeavour to grab the reader’s attention, but in the conclusive paragraphs turns into a motivator to help the people who may be in need. At a point where one may spend enormous amounts of money for a mediocre meal at a fancy restaurant, we must be aware of the privilege we hold as the economically well-off class and ensure that we don’t exploit it.

The book brings along a sweet, simmered reality check with questions that will make the reader reassess the tiny details of the life around them. The questions, while not as great as how to achieve world peace, are still of utmost importance. Sachdeva questions the system we have formed as a society every step of the way without shoving an existential crisis down the reader’s throat.

Another one of the stories called Horoscope calls out an age-old superstition. As the name suggests, the story is about fortune-tellers, and the historically respected system of kundali/jathakam in the country. The three hundred and fifty-word long story leaves the reader pondering and agreeing at the same time. It’s a story with logic simple enough for a child to understand, and yet the most respected elders have disagreed with it for decades.

One of the stories that stands out is called The Third Gender. To even talk about the transgender community has been a taboo, but somehow the basis of this taboo isn’t questioned very often. Through this story, Sachdeva poses a simple question to the readers: who decided that we must be separate, and is it even fair to consider them as ‘separate’?

This collection of stories serves as a subtle, yet stomach-twisting roller-coaster. It will make your heart-warm and your stomach churn at the same time with the kind of realizations you face as you jump from story to story. Every story comes with a certain sense of home, even if you haven’t lived this narrative you’re bound to know someone who has. Soon, as you go through the book, the narratives become yours and so do the questions. After every story, you recall an incident where you caught yourself at the brim of asking the questions that Sachdeva has laid out for us to ponder upon in an elegant manner. Stories of Us makes the reader question everything around and about them, and at this point in our world all we need is the ability
to question.