A new era of fill- in- the- blanks writ­ing prom­ises to tell sto­ries of ur­ban girls in an ur­bane whirl. It doesn’t de­liver.

India Today - - LEISURE - By Kaveree Bamzai

There is a new genre of fic­tion that strad­dles the dis­tance be­tween chick lit and more se­ri­ous women’s fic­tion. Let’s call it fill- in- the­blanks fic­tion. In chick lit, ev­ery de­scrip­tion of the in­vari­ably plucky hero­ine is fol­lowed by a de­tailed de­scrip­tion of ei­ther food or fash­ion. So one minute the hero­ine will make a deep, mean­ing­ful state­ment about the love of her life—“decades could pass and that voice wouldn’t fade from mem­ory”— and in the next sen­tence, she will notice the “pale blue sweater, but­ter soft to the touch” or the “flat leather mes­sen­ger bag on his shoul­der”. That’s Kavita Daswani in Bom­bay Girl, an oth­er­wise en­ter­tain­ing read about suc­ces­sion in a ridicu­lously wealthy Mum­bai busi­ness fam­ily. This kind of fic­tion leaves some room for fun since it em­braces the joys of liv­ing: There are de­tailed de­scrip­tions of food— pump­kin ravi­oli and al­mond crusted salmon— all cooked by the man, of course, and long di­gres­sions into the lives of Mum­bai’s rich wives, who spend their day do­ing vol­un­tary work, or­gan­is­ing reli­gious cer­e­monies, go­ing on shop­ping ex­pe­di­tions and get­ting facelifts.

Then there’s the other kind of fill- in- the­blanks fic­tion, where ev­ery sen­ti­men­tal ob­ser­va­tion is im­me­di­ately fol­lowed by a retelling of life- al­ter­ing events. The hero­ine will be re­call­ing her child­hood, be­ing lifted by her fa­ther as a tod­dler, her head put on his shoul­der, her fin­gers stuck in her mouth. And in the next breath, the reader will be told about Indira Gandhi at­tack­ing East Pak­istan. One minute she will be clasped to her fa­ther’s chest as an older woman, re­turn­ing from a so­journ abroad, “smelling his oven- burnt smell, in­hal- ing her coun­try by the lung­ful,” and an­other minute, the na­tion’s eyes would be glued “to the Babri Masjid, a 400- year- old mosque in the city of Ay­o­d­hya that a group of Hin­dus claimed was the birth­place of the god Rama”. That’s Mishi Saran’s The Other Side of Light.

Of course, I can write nei­ther kind but it makes me won­der why would peo­ple read this or in­deed Ab­so­lutely Nuts by Vi­jaya Lukose or Nick of Time by Ko­mal Mehta? One could ar­gue that af­ter the Fifty Shades of Grey tril­ogy, peo­ple will read any­thing, but that would be a mis­take. That’s an al­to­gether dif­fer­ent for­mula— ev­ery tremu­lous feel­ing sum­moned by the hero­ine is fol­lowed by a graphic sex scene in­volv­ing ac­ces­sories read­ers will find only in kinky sex web­sites. Ny­lon ropes? Rid­ing crops? Hand­cuffs?

There is an ap­petite for read­ing about peo­ple like us. Or at least peo­ples we’d like to be. What’s not to like about So­hana Bad­shah’s life in Bom­bay Girl, as she min­gles with bo­toxed aunts and hunky boyfriends? Or about Asha’s life in The Other Side of Light as she drifts through life hav­ing beau­ti­ful sex and tak­ing stun­ning pic­tures? Clearly there is a mar­ket for the world of cheap flights and cheer­ful hol­i­days that Lukose recre­ates in Ab­so­lutely Nuts, with Geral­dine Pinto at its cen­tre. Per­haps be­cause it is a not- so- thinly veiled ac­count of re­cent avi­a­tion his­tory in­clud­ing a char­ac­ter called Mauj Singh who has a life­style of pri­vate yachts, pri­vate jets, pri­vate vil­las and pri­vate women, who seems re­mark­ably fa­mil­iar. And clearly there is also a mar­ket for Ale­hya who is in love with Vicky who is to marry Sh­a­gun, all in happy Chandi­garh, which is the story of Nick of Time.

We need to read more, yes, but per­haps not this.

SAU­RABH SINGH/ www. in­di­a­to­day­im­ages. com

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