This book was sent to me by Bloomsbury India in exchange of a fair review
A word with such an old world charm to it, used to describe the acquisition of one of the most worldly of things – money.
Mr. and Mrs. Jha are the lucky recipients of one such windfall when they manage to sell off a small, successful website developed by Mr. Jha for a good price to a foreign firm. Buying a house in a posh Gurgaon neighborhood seems like the best way to spend this money. What follows is the sometimes hilarious and sometimes painful journey of the couple as they first prepare themselves for and then finally make the move from their small East Delhi home to the new one in Gurgaon. They are also the proud parents of Rupak who is pursuing a MBA (?) degree from a not very prestigious college in the US and thus manages to miss out on all drama back home, although he does arrive just in time for the climax. That is not to say that he is not leading a highly eventful life in the US.
The East Delhi neighbourhood that the author describes seems to be populated by the most vicious set of individuals or so it seems to me. Anything or anyone who aspires to be even slightly different from their accepted social mores is apt to be subjected to ostrasization and snide ridicule. The plight of Mrs. Ray, a widow and a friend of the Jha’s, is sad and frightening to behold. Not only is she a subject for malicious gossip because she is a widow who seems to be living happily, but it also puts her on target for some pretty unsavory characters. As backward as it sounds, this is a pretty staple reaction to widows in our country. A widower on the other hand is free of any such restraints or checks on his behavior or character after losing a spouse.
The most believable and relatable part of the book for me turned out to be Rupak’s shenanigans abroad. His insecurity and complete lack of focus, his failure to handle the freedom and money in a new place away from the censorious eyes of family and neighbours, his great dilemma about choosing a girl who will please his parents, his almost compulsive need to hide anything and everything about his life from his family were all things that happen on a day to day basis around us in India.
The Chopras, who are the new, super rich, money obsessed neighbours in Gurgaon actually turn out to be pretty decent people. I guess what the author was trying to say was that shallow people can also be kind. The ‘don’t judge the complete book by its cover’ idiom rings true for everyone it seems.
Overall, this book was not exactly my cup of tea, but it certainly has its shining moments. The mindset of a small community of retirees that has nothing better to do than keep tabs on everyone around them, the rich who are competing with other rich folks in showing off their wealth, the lonely widow who dares to be different, the prodigal son who turns out to be not so great after all and so on and so forth.
There were many points of aggravation for me also, like the constant reference to Mr. and Mrs. whenever anyone wants to talk to anyone else. Who does that in a middle class Indian neighbourhood? The use of ‘ji’ or ‘madam’ is more likely to happen. And I simply refuse to believe the idea that people are going around painting Bollywood murals on the walls of their drawing rooms. And where did the statistic come from that ‘most’ houses in India now carry toilet paper in their bathrooms? Nitti gritty I know, but that seems to be my problem, as my husband continues to tell me often, the inability to let little things go and just sit back and enjoy the big picture. So, the big picture would be that this is a fun, easy, uncomplicated afternoon read, with some funny moments and some sweet ones to keep you feeling nice and cozy by the end of it.