Tag Archives: Chicklit

Completely Pointless Ramblings on Love

Today I’m going to talk about love. It’s an overused term, I know. But I haven’t written about it in a long time. Not really. I have been suspicious of love, waged war with it, tried to control it, compartmentalise it and even ignore it. Today, I sit down with it like it’s an old friend, a welcome visitor to my life. Bear with me if I sound preachy in this post. It is not my intention to do so. What claim do I have, to speak knowledgeably about love, other than my own experiences? Writing is my way of telling myself, listening to myself and trying to make sense of myself.

Love. Love isn’t sex. We keep getting told that, as well as how women tend to mix these two more often than not. I don’t know if I’ve learnt the lesson well enough. But I know it is a lesson.

Love is also not romance. This was an unexpected lesson to learn. Love isn’t pretty, pink or pleasant (or any of those ChickLitey ‘P’ words). It is not fun or euphoric. Those are caused by chemicals that burn off just as quickly as they start. I’ve been meeting a lot of charming people lately. They are good listeners, good talkers. They smile and make me smile. There are compliments and flowers and chocolates and sweetness and light. There’s charm. There’s nothing wrong with these things. Except that one tends to mistake these for love and when they vanish, there’s the heaviness of disappointment to deal with. That is really ugly.

Love is not politically correct. The last person I know with absolute certainty that I loved, is more than five years younger than I am. He wasn’t nice to my friends and they did not like him. He was antisocial and selfish. But I loved him and  he loved me, I think. That is what made the two year relationship and the engagement (which sadly, didn’t result in marriage) happen. Nothing else mattered. And that is what they mean by love conquers all.

Love doesn’t restrict itself to romance novels. It doesn’t stay within the boundaries laid by governments, families and ideologies. It refuses to be pinned down by stamped paper or weighed down by a gold pendant on a yellow thread. But sometimes it does grow in old friendships and in associations you take for granted.

Love probably should be trust. Though it’s got nothing to do with trustworthiness. Or logic or credibility or past experience. Trust – why do we use statistics of the past to determine that, when it’s about futures that can’t be determined? Statistics can’t even accurately determine whether a coin toss is going to land Heads or Tails. One trusts because one does; that’s all. And that might be the nature of love.

B is for BFF

BAnother day, another story for the A to Z Challenge. I cheated, slightly. This isn’t a brand new story but one I wrote some time ago and had reviewed by a small group. They didn’t like it much. The main feedback was the lack of an actual story. I think this has less to do with a non-existant plot and more to do with inadequate writing. So I rewrote it. Tell me if I’ve succeeded. And uh, by the way, today’s prompt is ‘B’.

~O~O~O~O~O~

Best Friends ForeverB is for BFF

“I’m parching up, Janet! Get me some water, quick!”

Vera began retouching her mascara, her left eye large, a little reddish patch showing at the base of the eyeball. Janet knew every microcosm of Vera by now. Even the mascara had been chosen, keeping Vera’s stubby eyelashes in mind. They had had a tiff over it but finally the bridesmaid had won over the hysterical bride. Janet knew she had picked right. The midnight blue mascara toned down the reddishness in Vera’s eyes, that Janet had correctly anticipated.

“JANET!!! Now!! Don’t be such a slowpoke! I need water! Quick, quick!”

Vera’s hand jerked out a snap-snap. Janet stepped up to the table and put the glass down carefully, amidst the clutter. It made a neat little tock sound against the mascara tube and sent it rolling, the brush coming loose off the stick and plunging over the side of the table. Janet caught it just before it fell onto the white confection that formed the bridal gown’s base. Vera’s eyes had widened but Janet calmly pocketed the brush and picked up the glass. She held it out, right over Vera’s face. But her arm was rock-steady and after a few seconds, Vera turned back to the mirror.

“More, I need more than this.”

she snapped.

“Your lipstick will fade. That’s all you get.”

Vera narrowed her eyes but she picked up the glass. Ignoring the bendy straw, she sipped from the rim. Janet turned away, not really caring. She couldn’t care less what happened to Vera’s lipstick but she didn’t want to accompany her to the bathroom again and hold up her gown while Vera peed. Even the husband wouldn’t have to go through that indignity.

“There. How does that look?”

Vera turned, making a pouty face at Janet.

Janet stepped up to the vanity mirror again, scrutinizing Vera’s face. The lipstick was on a bit thick. It would start to cake into tiny pellets and once completely dry, it would start flaking. She leaned in a bit further, studying the eyelashes to see if the mascara would follow suit. Vera guffawed an explosion of sound and spittle right in Janet’s face.

“That good, huh? Ooh, I hope Victor feels the same way. Tonight, tonight, tonight. Oh my god, I’m so excited! You think he’ll be hot for me after all this effort? Oh I hope so, I hope so, I hope so!”

Janet stepped back, smiling. But when she turned away, she was rolling her eyes. That was all Vera chose to focus on? She pursed her lips. It would be over in a matter of hours anyway.

She opened the cupboard, surveying the contents of Vera’s going-away luggage. The cutesy clutch that she’d carry at the reception later was atop a vanity case. But the make-up was lying strewn all across the dressing table that Vera was seated at. Instead the case was crammed with utilities like the mobile phone charger and nail clippers. A glass bottle rolled about inside, as Janet pushed the vanity case aside. Vera had asked her to stock it up with birth control pills, two months ago. Janet allowed herself a tiny grin. It was stocked with white pills now. Some white pills. She sneaked a look back over her shoulder.

Vera was chatting on her mobile phone. Her hair was put up and her long neck descended into a curved back, a narrow waist and the voluminous skirt. That skirt. Janet had known it would be trouble. She had tried to convince Vera to choose the satin, midi-length sheath instead but to no avail. She had tried to tell her how uncomfortable it would be. But Vera had winked and said,

“It’s just the day. And after that I’m not going to be in it very long, am I?”

Janet told herself that that was the moment she had first thought it. The plan began right then. In the weeks that followed, she had had a chance to study every detail of Vera’s life. She knew her bra size (the real one), her period cycle, the date of her last electrolytic hair removal and when the stubble was expected to come back. The things that Victor didn’t know, would never know.

She tapped her fingernails together. Earlier in the morning, she had checked Vera’s mobile phone. There were dozens of messages to be deleted. Photographs and four videos too. The things that Victor might not know. Might not.

Vera giggled and then shushed into the phone. Janet wondered who she was speaking to, but she let it be. It would probably be her last flourish of fun.

Janet checked the clock. It was time to put on the pearl embroidered top that formed the bustier of the bridal gown. She stepped back to Vera’s seat and bent, pretending to smoothen the ruffles and check that the pins were in place. Vera gasped but Janet ignored her. The tiny, hard knots in the lace hem dug into Vera’s throat.

The clock chimed 11:00. Footsteps sounded in the corridor outside. But Janet was already there, nodding her ‘all’s well’. She returned to the bride’s room. Vera had her head down on the dressing table. A row of pearly buttons cascaded down her smooth back. Janet was proud of her handiwork. It was such a neat finish. No one could tell. The gashes were neat and fine, works of precision. The red stains would only show when the garments were taken off.

The orchestra struck up the wedding march. Janet raised her weapon. Then she rolled the lipstick back into its tube and dropped it into her pocket. And she turned to her best friend.

“Vera, it’s time. Let’s go get you married.”

~O~O~O~O~O~

*Image courtesy Victor Habbick on FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Sept Shorts04: Book Lovers

I spent May stretching my story-telling muscles with the MayShortReads. In the later months, I looked back at the stories and found a pattern of the heavy & dark. Murder, self-harm, sexual abuse, cheating, voyeurism and masochism all showed up. Even when there was humour, it was either irony or borderline dark. So in the Sept Shorts exercise, I impose another condition on myself. I intend to keep this a month of fun reads – humour, the more easygoing kind, romance, the sweeter sort and horror, the good ol’ chills & spills variety.

As it turned out, this imposition weighs heavily on me. I struggled for a week and as a result I’m 7 stories behind already. But I finally wrote a light romance! It’s longer than my usual but I hope that makes it better, not worse. Read on!

~O~O~O~O~O~O~

The high-pitched notes of Jingle Bells on muzak were ringing in the air. Priyanka could hear it even as she stepped into the building lobby. She ran across the floor, slipping slightly on the mudtracks left by footwear that had been trampling through the monsoon. The lift was still there as she turned the corner but an assortment of cartons stood between her and the grills. The lift grills were pushed open with a carton that was lying right on the grill track. Priyanka frowned, mentally cursing the ineptitude and thoughtlessness of the owner of those cartons. She didn’t want to have to climb up ten stories.

There was a sound of something being dragged across the lobby floor and she turned. A man was hefting what looked like his entire wardrobe behind him. As he neared the lift landing, she saw he was clutching the handle of a strolley in each hand, a soft leather bag balanced precariously over one of them and a backpack over his shoulder. He looked up apologetically as a drop of rainwater ran down the side of his face, from his hairline.

“Sorry, sorry. I thought I’d get everything in, in one go. And there was no one else around, you know…”

Priyanka pursed her lips and gave a tight little nod. There were so many boxes on the landing that there was no room for him to enter it, along with the suitcases. Clearly, it was a bad idea. She looked around the landing and counted seven cardboard cartons.

“You’re moving in?”

“Uh, yes. Tenth floor, I moved into 1005.”

He replied over his shoulder. He was kneeling on the floor now, fiddling with the strap of one of the suitcases. Priyanka wondered what was in each carton; none of them had labels on them the way she would have put, were she shifting. She looked down at the one nearest to her feet. The flaps were straining and she could make out glossy paper inside. Books, ah.

The man stood up, stacked the suitcases on top of each other and laid the leather bag, then the backpack down on them.

“Heh, bad idea, I see. Gimme a minute. I’ll get the carton out of your way and you can take the lift up.”

He hopped over the randomly strewn cardboard boxes and bent down to pick up the one in the grill track. As he stepped back, the grill slammed shut and the lift whisked upwards immediately. He turned around, shamefaced.

“Sorry!”

Priyanka smiled. She supposed she could afford to wait another couple of minutes. Besides, she was curious about how many of the cartons held books.

“How about we move the remaining cartons out of the way so people can get out of the lift?”

And without waiting for an answer, she bent and pushed the carton (the one with books) into the corner. He followed her lead and brought over his carton to set it down over the one she had just pushed. The others would have to be lifted, she saw. But she couldn’t budge the first one an inch. He came up from the other side and lifted it up easily and together they carried it over to the carton stack.

“Heavy, huh?”

he grinned,

“These movers aren’t used to clients who read a lot.”

Another book carton, Priyanka noted and smiled. As a booklover, she could well empathise.

“I would have taken the cartons of books out first too.”

she said, hoping she was right.

“A fellow book-lover, then? No wonder you didn’t hate me for holding up the lift”

His laughing eyes met hers over the top of another carton. Priyanka could feel pages rustling on her fingers as she clutched the bottom of the carton.

“What’s this got? All magazines? They feel loose at the bottom, unlike the other two.”

“Comics.”

he said,

“What book-loving guy would be caught dead without those?”

“Such a boy thing.”

Priyanka scoffed, before she caught herself. Flirting with the new guy in the building? What was she thinking? But he did have a nice smile. Nice eyes. And other things, she thought, the sight of him bending over to pick up the first carton, flashing through her head. Then there were all those books.

He didn’t seem to have noticed though, as he picked up the last carton all by himself. It was a smaller one and he didn’t bother setting it atop the others.

“This one’s the most important.”

he mused, almost to himself.

They stood side by side waiting for the lift to return, for awhile before he thought to introduce himself.

“Oh, I’m Miheer.”

He said, pulling his right hand out from under the carton he was carrying. But before she could shake it, the carton slipped and he clumsily caught it from falling. Priyanka laughed.

“You’d better hold on to that one if it has your favorite books. I’m Priyanka.”

The lift arrived and an irritable Mrs.Rajendra waddled out. She came out with her eyes narrowed, ready to decimate whoever had held up the lift for that long but when she saw Miheer, a big plastic smile pasted itself across her heavily lipsticked lips. Miheer’s charm wasn’t confined to young women only, Priyanka noted, cattily.

The lift zoomed back up the second Mrs.Rajendra let go of the grills. Priyanka didn’t mind though. She wondered which books Miheer had put in his ‘favorite’ carton. Mrs.Rajendra was acquainting herself with the new, goodlooking neighbor. Priyanka wondered whether she was going to stand there all day, inviting him over to tea but eventually she said goodbye and left.

“Looks like heavy traffic in the lift today!”

Miheer exclaimed, turning to her.

Priyanka suppressed a giggle. Surely he couldn’t have been referring to Mrs.Rajendra? No, it must be the lift going up and down before they could catch it.

“So which are your favorites?”

said Priyanka.

“Lots of them. Wilbur Smith, some Terry Pratchett, an occasional Dickens…”

Priyanka nodded, approving. She wasn’t big on Wilbur Smith but a Pratchett fan she could warm up to.

He paused, looking at her suddenly. Then he looked down at the carton he was holding again.

“But you know, those aren’t the only ones in here. In fact, I doubt there’s a single Wilbur Smith in this box. Lots of books I’d never heard of before I saw them.”

“Oh? Lucky finds are always wonderful. And books that are gifts.”

“These are more like the first. Very lucky finds. I found every one of these books in a raddiwala’s shop.”

Oh, raddiwalas! Priyanka felt her heart glow. All the happy discoveries she had made at roadside second-hand book shops! He seemed to be watching her for a reaction. Suddenly, he set the carton down on the floor.

“Can I tell you a little secret? All the books in this carton came from the same person.”

“Someone gave you an entire carton of books? You’re very lucky! I wish I had such friends!”

“No, not exactly.”

He said as the lift clanged to a stop in front of them.

Mr.Parekh, the building secretary got out. Priyanka caught the grill door and held it open, looking over her shoulder. But Miheer was engrossed in a conversation with Mr.Parekh about paperwork. Ruefully, she said bye but neither of them appeared to hear it. So she let the lift doors shut and pressed 9 on the lift panel.

It was a whole week before she saw him again. It was a Sunday morning and she was only going to buy a lightbulb so she didn’t bother dressing up much. There he was, looking at the building noticeboard in the lobby landing, looking even better than the last time she had seen him. He was dressed in a white tee-shirt and jeans this time with running shoes. He turned and greeted her as she approached.

“Settling in okay?”

she asked.

“Absolutely. I know this area well.”

“Oh I see. You’ve lived around here before?”

“Some friends have, across the road. I’ve only been in Mumbai about 5 years now. But I liked this area. This seemed like a nice colony too.”

“It is, I think. I’ve been coming here since I was a kid.”

“You don’t live here?”

“No, my aunt does. I come by every few days to meet her.”

Priyanka wondered if he had noticed that they’d begun walking towards the gate. He seemed to be accompanying her. At the gate, though, she stopped.

“I guess this is bye for now?”

“I thought I’d walk you to wherever you’re going. Umm, you don’t look like you’re going anywhere far away.”

Miheer said.

Priyanka frowned. Did she look quite as disheveled as that? He was ever so slightly tactless. But she nodded anyway and said,

“The shops at the end of the road.”

They chatted as they walked. Miheer pointed to the raddiwala as they passed it, with its piles of newspaper and magazines hanging from a single corner, along a clothesline.

“This guy probably gets 80% of his business from me!”

“Really? I haven’t come here in ages! Since Amazon and Flipkart came up, I haven’t actually set foot in any book shop. I don’t even remember the last time I bought a secondhand book!”

said Priyanka.

“Online shopping is great, of course, but there’s something extra special about secondhand books.”

Miheer said.

“Well, I like the smell of a new book, with its fresh pages.”

“Who doesn’t? But you know, raddiwalas sometimes have books that you don’t find in bookshops anymore. Even the online ones.”

“That’s true. Only, there are so many books vying for attention, that I don’t really mind if I don’t find the one I’m looking for. There’s always ten others I can read instead!”

They stopped at the crossing and waited for the signal to turn red. Priyanka took out the little notepad she always carried and jotted something in it, as they waited.

“You write down your shopping lists?”

He seemed amused.

“Doesn’t Miss I-only-shop-online prefer her mobile phone to a humble old notebook?”

Priyanka didn’t reply. The light had changed and they were crossing now. Imagine him noticing a small thing like that! She didn’t generally show her little notepad to anyone else. Everyone was so gung-ho about their smart devices, these days.

The hardware shop was just across the road and they stepped right in. Priyanka opened her notepad on the counter to check the rest of the list, while the salesman went to test the bulb. As she was paying, Miheer returned from his perusal of the wiring and peered into the notepad. Priyanka saw him and wondered whether he’d want to continue accompanying her on her shopping soujourn. But he was very quiet as she paid and they left the shop.

It wasn’t till they finished the entire list and were walking back that he finally spoke.

“Would you like to come check out my book collection later this afternoon? I’ve been unpacking them and I’ll be putting away the last ones today.”

Priyanka stiffened. Their pseudo-date had been going very well until now and it had been easy to forget that Miheer was a near-stranger. So, despite the temptation to say yes, she said she was leaving before lunch. He shrugged, nonchalantly and she felt deflated that it mattered so little to him. When she got back, she showered and left immediately, fearing that Miheer would see her around later. She didn’t want him to think that she had lied to avoid going to his place.

Priyanka half hoped he would ask for her phone number. But he didn’t even send her a Facebook friend request, like the guys in her social circuit would have. Perhaps he wasn’t online a lot. She didn’t even know what he did for a living. The internet remedied that for her, however. On her next visit, she discreetly checked his last name. It was literally jumping off the dusty resident list in the lobby, since it was the newest addition. A little snooping online told her that he worked for a multinational bank. She was only surprised that he had the taste that he did. All the banking types she had known so far, liked to spend their money on flashy, lavish gadgets that showed off how much money they made. A second-hand bookstore seemed the least likely haunt for someone like him.

On an impulse, she picked up a Terry Pratchett from her collection and walked down to his floor. This was two weeks later and she hadn’t seen or heard from him. Ordinarily she would have forgotten about a guy who didn’t seem to show any interest. But passing his flat every couple of days for a fortnight had worn her inhibitions thin and temptation won out. She felt a little more confident, after all the information she had gathered about him. And just to be certain, she also told her aunt she was going to speak to her downstairs neighbor, before she left.

She rang the doorbell, clutching the Pratchett for luck. She had thought to bring along ‘Good Omens’ and she hoped it would hold true. When there was no answer, she rang again and then immediately thought better of it. She was coming off really desperate! Should she make a run for it? Just as she turned away, the door was flung open. Miheer stood there, a grey teeshirt sticking to his body. He was wearing black trackpants and his hair was dripping wet.

“I do believe I’ve caught you at a bad time.”

Priyanka said, grinning.

He looked abashed but he stood aside and invited her in.

“I’ve…uh yes…give me a minute, can you? Sit down, make yourself at home.”

he said, gesturing vaguely, before disappearing down the corridor.

Priyanka stepped in and looked around the room. It mirrored her aunt’s flat in design, except it looked out over the back of the colony instead of the garden. There was a beanbag next to the French windows but she didn’t sit down. Her attention was drawn naturally to the rows and rows of books lining an entire wall behind. As she reached out to touch them, she realized they were stacked on a sliding shelf. Two more sliding shelves revealed themselves behind this one.

Bigger Bookcase

Bigger Bookcase (Photo credit: juhansonin)

“I thought you’d like that.”

He said softly. She jumped. She hadn’t heard him come back into the room. He was dressed in a pair of jeans now and a fresh red tee-shirt. How did the man clean up so good, in a couple of minutes? It wasn’t fair. Priyanka needed at least half an hour to look that fine, after a shower.

“How about something to drink?”

he said, moving to the kitchen. Priyanka hadn’t even looked in that direction of the room. Unlike her aunt’s house, this one had a little kitchenette to one side, separated from the hall only by a counter. A bachelor probably didn’t need a big kitchen, thought Priyanka, smiling at the notion. Her online research hadn’t turned up his marital status.

He held up a jar of tea leaves. She was surprised. Most people served coffee. She didn’t know anybody else in her generation who drank tea.

“I just finished this one. Have you read it?”

She asked, holding up ‘Good Omens’. Miheer brought over two steaming mugs of tea and set them down. As she sipped, he picked up the book and turned the cover. Priyanka watched him smile.

“Pratchett is great, isn’t he? Wodehouse is the only other one that can make me smile at the first page itself.”

“You like Wodehouse more than you do Pratchett.”

It sounded more like a statement than a question. Priyanka wondered at that but she replied.

“You can’t really compare the two, can you? I mean, they’re both humorous but Wodehouse is much more classic. In his period and his style.”

He chose a few books from the first sliding shelf and brought them over to her. When Priyanka looked at her watch later, she was surprised to see it was nearly evening. She was nestled comfortably in the beanbag and looking over her shoulder at the bookshelf, when he stood up. He walked over and slid the hindmost shelf back. Then he turned and beckoned her over. She stood up, wondering.

“Remember that carton I was carrying, the day I moved in?”

She nodded.

“Your favorite books, right?”

He grinned, seemingly unsure. Then he sobered and gestured to the bottom two rows.

“You know what’s even better than a good first page? An good inscription.”

He said, holding up ‘Good Omens’. She watched as he opened the book. On the first page, right under the title, she had written,

‘A few solitary bars on the piano, a brand new bookstore and tea, with old faces on new people.’

Below that was the name of the bookstore and the date she had bought it – three years ago. Priyanka didn’t know anybody ever read those inscriptions. She liked writing a little note to herself with the date and the place she’d bought the book, before she began reading.

“Did you re-read the book? You bought it years ago.”

Miheer said

“No, I inscribe books when I buy them. But sometimes I end up reading them only later. When you mentioned Pratchett at our first meeting, it made me think of this one so I started it.”

said Priyanka, blushing for no reason she could imagine.

“I thought so.”

he said and pointed to the shelf again. She followed his gesture and knelt to scrutinize the books that were almost hidden away at the bottom. She recognized one, two….wait a minute, every one of the books in those two rows.

“Go ahead. Take one out.”

He prompted.

She chose Alexander McCall Smith’s ‘The No.1 Ladies’ Detective Agency’, knowing but not quite believing what she’d find there. And there, just as she had thought, were her own words scrawled across the title page in the inscription that read,

‘A new book is like a conversation with a new person…an investment – one that could turn into the reward of a lifetime relationship or the memory of an unpleasant experience or even sink into the abyss of forgotteness.’

“That one was nice, obviously. But it didn’t say anything about you. Others did. One of your Harry Potter books just says ‘Quarter-Life better damn count for something!’”

He bent and pulled out another book. It was Milan Kundera’s ‘The Unbearable Lightness of Being’. She remembered it well, from that time in her twenties when professional confusion and personal mayhem prevailed.

“This one had notes on all the pages, in addition to the inscription.”

He had opened it to a page that she had scrawled in pencil,

‘If love be murder,
I’d be dead in your arms tonight.
I am, wiped of the burden of being me.
I’m flying, flying,
soaring through skies
on wings dripping away my old self
as they melt in the warmth of you.’

Priyanka stared at him. It was bizarre, almost spooky, seeing her old books but also hearing her own words repeated back to her.

“I found one of your books at the raddiwala on my first visit here. Then I found a couple of other books also with your inscriptions. After that, I’ve picked up at least one of your books on every visit to the raddiwala.”

“You make it sound as if I wrote all those books.”

“You wrote those inscriptions. I was amazed at how often a book that I picked up, interested, would have an inscription by you in it. At first it was just nice knowing someone else shared the same taste that I did. Then it became like an ongoing story. The dates, the bookshops, the little things you chose to write in those inscriptions.”

“I….I never thought anybody else would read them. And I gave away all these books when online books came into being. It was easier to store them. You know how it is in Bombay flats.”

“Yes, I do. I still like the feel of a real book though. And one with a special inscription is…well, special.”

Priyanka smiled, turning away. He couldn’t possibly mean that. Could he?

“I mean…I know you didn’t write them specially for me…or umm, anyone. But it was like peering over someone’s shoulder, someone who had so much in common with me. I liked thinking that I was a part of your life, even if we didn’t know each other.”

“So how did you…?”

Priyanka began.

“That day, when you took out your notebook at the electrician’s shop? I recognized your handwriting right away. I’ve read your inscriptions so many times, I’d know it anywhere! That is to say….umm, well, I hoped I would meet you some day.”

Priyanka turned to face Miheer.

“Perhaps I secretly wished someone would read them, when I wrote those inscriptions.”

The next week, Miheer had a new sliding shelf fitted in. He’d need one for all the inscribed books that would be joining the others. Priyanka helped him stack the shelves. It was time for tea.

Banned Books #4

Banned Books #4 (Photo credit: ellen.w)

The one time I’m willing to say that…

‘The Reluctant Detective’ By Kiran Manral: ChickLit With A Twist

My weekend reading was ‘The Reluctant Detective‘, first novel by fellow-blogger Kiran Manral. Just as well, since it proved to be a hectic few days leading upto & culminating in the boy’s birthday, leaving me no time for heavy reading. This book was light and easily read in the short intervals that I managed to catch between organizing parties, shopping for gifts & tending to the social commitments of a busy weekend.

The Reluctant Detective‘ is the story of Kanan Mehra (a.k.a. Kay), a privileged suburban housewife, into whose pampered life comes excitement in the form of a double murder in the neighborhood. Kay is loosely linked to both cases, being the last to have seen the first victim alive, and the one to discover the body of the second, both on the same day. Her daily life of beauty treatments, fashion fanaticism, kitty parties and housewifely gossip, have her ill-prepared to deal with the ramifications of these events. She blunders through having to face gore for the first time in her comfortable life and rubs uneasy shoulders with such strange people as detectives & policemen.

The title notwithstanding, the story has very little to do with her actual solving of the cases. Instead, it builds on the response from Kay’s world, right from a sudden fear of taking morning walks alone, SoBo acquaintances dismissal of the suburbs, parental paranoia & automatic restriction, gossip sagas where maidservants gain starring roles and the revival of old-but-incompatible friendships.

There is a lot of focus on Kay’s wardrobe, her battle with the bulge and domestic adventures of the maternal, spousal & housekeeping sort. Thus the setting & tone give the book a Chick Lit feel, albeit with a heroine of a different demographic (slightly older, happily married with kids, no money/career concerns etc). Don’t expect a cloak-and-dagger adventure, all ye mystery lovers. On the other hand, if you enjoy Chick Lit and wouldn’t mind trying out something other than the usual ‘single girl-gay friend-bad boyfriends-alcohol & chocolates-BFFs’ formula, ‘The Reluctant Detective‘ will give you some pleasant, easy reading.

Here’s a promo of the book:

The blurb reads:

Kay, a.k.a. Kanan Mehra, is a thirty-something suburban housewife and young mother with a penchant for sticking her curious nose into things she definitely, absolutely and certainly shouldn’t go near. When a couple of corpses turn up in quick succession in her neighbourhood, she teams up with her detective friend, Runa, in a half-hearted attempt to find the murderers, only to suspect that perhaps the detective business doesn’t quite become her. A hilarious account of how not to get involved in other people’s murders, The Reluctant Detective is the story of every school-gate mom, searching for a purpose in her life that goes beyond kitty lunches, shopping and fish pedicures.

The Reluctant Detective‘ by Kiran Manral has been published by Westland & priced at Rs.195/-.

Giggly Girls & Credit Cards: Confessions Of A Shopaholic

I am not a shopaholic. I’m not, I’m not, I’m not!! And for those of you who gasped in shock/amazement/incredulity (or don’t follow my idea-tweets, here are some of the Confessions of a Shopaphobic:

  • I don’t hate spending money, it’s the dressing room trials that get me down!
  • I don’t hate toting shopping bags, but I do hate it when they get crushed in the crowd!
  • I don’t regret having too much stuff; I just hate not having the place to put it all in!
  • I don’t miss having a man accompany me; I just hate not having someone else to blame my bad choices on!
  • I’ve no problem with cut-price sales; it’s the sharp nails (claws!) and trampled feet that get me down!
  • Window-shopping makes me feel like a tease: Foreplay which does not result in a climax!!
  • Environment-friendly: I’ve no problems with the price tags; I just dont like the credit card bills!!

What a pity Becky Bloomwood doesn’t know me. But if she did, we might not have the latest chick-lit offering that’s all set to send women across the world oohing, aahing, this-is-better-than-an-orgasming over it. Don’t believe me?

I picked up the first book at Heathrow airport, causing my very stiffy-upper-lipped (and cute!) British companion to remark,

That’s the one all the girls are mad about, innit?

From Mumbai to London (or should that be the other way since the heroine is British?), Sophie Kinsella is the reigning queen of chick-litdom. Her first book The Secret Dreamworld of a Shopaholic, sparked off an American version which is the one the movie is based on, thus Becky is a dollar-billing New Yorker. As you’d expect the movie is a glitzy, glamourous look at the Big Apple where skinny women tote Prada and totter about on Gucci as they sigh in envy at skinnier women in Jimmy Choos. The look is very Sex and the City, though the feel is more candy-floss ‘Someday my prince will come’. Prepare for dreamy eyes, dreamy sighs, gush and mush.

Confessions of a Shopaholic has all the classic ingredients of a good ol’ rom-com chickflick – fabulous clothes, unrealistic (but beeyootifool) shoes, accessories to die for, great friends, kissing on the beach and a droolsome hunk (to kiss). The plotline is pretty basic (but then you weren’t into chicklit for the intriguing storylines, were you?) and sweetened with pretty faces, zippy lines and fabulous montages. If the jokes seem a little predictable, they are but then again, they’re set in candy-fluff charm so you don’t really worry too much. It’s like a little kid telling a story, you’ve heard it, you’ve seen it but she’s so cute, you can’t help but listen to it over again and applaud at the end of it. Realism is another thing that you’d be better off not expecting from this movie. It’s an all out light-hearted chickflick, not meant to be taken seriously or examined too closely. Enjoy the giggly glitz and have an evening of girly fun!

It is also rather ironic that this movie’s release coincides with a time when the US is reeling under the aftermath of its excessive (pre-consuming) consumerist lifestyle. I’m not really sure how well this movie will do in the US markets since the audience there might just find it too hard to digest the disparity between their seemingly endless problems and how the heroine’s gargantuan debts are magicked away.

The movie led me to wonder exactly what makes a person a shopaholic. There is one telling point (and the one and only profound/intelligent moment) and it comes right at the start as the heroine tells us about her childhood, growing up with sensible (read frugal and boring) parents who believed in saving for a rainy day. The child that she is, is overawed by the shiny, magical things that can be possessed by those greater beings wielding pieces of plastic. When she grows up, she never quite gets used to the feeling that she is now one of them.

I so identified with that. I always wanted to be able to walk into a shop and know I could walk out with anything that my heart desired (it was on my ‘list of things I want’, the one I made when I was seventeen). When I started working , I was beseiged with people who wanted to give me credit cards, surround me with lovely things and reward me for shopping with them. It was a heady feeling, being able to flash that shiny little piece of plastic and have them put into my hands any manner of lovely things that I didn’t need, could well live without but just…could buy!

Incidently I also really liked the interplay between the maniacally consumerist Becky Bloomwood and the straight-shooting, cool-and-sensible Girl in a green scarf. Alter egos are a special thing with me and you’ll get what I mean when you watch the movie.

Isla Fisher as the scatter-brained heroine was charming and completely believable in her wide-eyed shock/innocence/awe/mischief. Hugh Dancy played his role of Luke Brandon to the tee (but then all he really had to do was look good in that tousle-haired millionaire way). I thought Robert Stanton was hilarious as the villian (debt-collector) of this girl-fantasy – the personification of brown/gray tweedy boringness in a world of bling.

I won’t spoil the story for you though if you’re keen on watching it, you’ve probably read the series already (and need I mention, female?!). Suffice to say that if you’re looking for a warm, glamorous, mushy, sparkly, feel-good movie to giggle over with your girlfriends, queue up at the box office on Friday night!

This preview was brought to us courtesy The Social Media Catalyst. I also had the delightful company of these lovely ladies: Ankita, Tharusha, The Polka Dot and Rehab (Don’t get me started of the sheer irony of Amy Winehouse singing the movie’s theme song while I sat next to the song’s namesake!). I wore a short flowery, flowy skirt and carried a pinky-pink bag. Ankita giggled and dared us a silly dare while Tharusha smiled silent Sphinx like at ‘Do you really have to go to work tonight?’. We did some girl stuff involving Mohitos and phone number-fishing at a bar. The Polka Dot whipped off her sensational heels and changed into sensible flats just after we left. And then we giggled all the way home.

Kinsella Fever – Don’t Go Beyond Shopaholic!

Can You Keep a Secret?Can You Keep a Secret? by Sophie Kinsella

My rating: 1 of 5 stars

The premise of spilling your secrets to a total stranger and meeting them later is interesting. Unfortunately this book doesn’t exploit that idea to its full potential. Predictability may have been forgivable in this genre as well as slight exaggeration of details. But the story comes across as a deluded fantasy and jars with its poor characterization, complete lack of logic and zero surprise-delight factor. Definitely not a worthy offer from the Shopaholic author.

—————————————————————————————————————————————————–

Remember Me?Remember Me? by Sophie Kinsella

My rating: 1 of 5 stars

Am I the only one who thinks this book is distinctly similar to ‘Can you keep a secret’ (also by the same author)? An average woman hits jackpot with money, fame and man (wait, that describes the Shopaholic books too). Also, in parallel to the ‘secret’ book, this is about a woman who thinks she has a perfect man because he ‘checks off’ on the right things but then finds that she feels differently.

‘Remember me’ is rather more enjoyable than ‘Can you keep a secret’ which came through as rather contrived. The premise is interesting (recovering amnesiacs always are, aren’t they?). I’d say in spite of its similarities to her other book, this is one is a rather better read.

View all my reviews

%d bloggers like this: