This book called The Five Dollar Smile by Shashi Tharoor, is a collection of stories that he wrote in his late teens and early twenties. Any one who has read his book The Great Indian Novel will not have doubt that he is a gifted story teller. His socio- political articles appearing in different publications from time to time establishes his mastery over telling complex things in a simple language comprehensible even to laymen.
This collection of stories clearly gives you a picture of the evolution of Tharoor as an author of enjoyable fiction. His varied experimentations with telling stories in different genres amuses us. There are stories of satire, romance, crime, comedy, social relevance and even a soft porn one somewhere in it! Many of the works shows off a young Tharoor's attempt to understand the working of the complex society around him.
The best of the lot as per me is the first one- The Five Dollar Smile, a story written when Tharoor just got associated with UN. It is the story of a kid living in an Indian orphanage whose smiling face gets featured in a popular advertisement appealing to donate money, five dollars, for charity. To his credit, Tharoor restraints himself from falling into the pit usual to newbie writers- over sentimentality.
The last work in the book is a social play that severely criticise the policies of then governing Prime Minister and the emergency declared by her. Interestingly Tharoor is presently a Parliamentary member who won the elections by being a part of the same political party of that PM and headed by her daughter in law!
Read this delightful collection more for knowing the initial experimentations and subsequent evolution of the writer into a gifted story teller than for its literary merits. The brief note before each story that describes the situation in which it was written adds to the comprehension.