Saturday, April 24, 2010

My First and Last Chicklit Novel

Almost Single by Advaita Kala is supposed to have pioneered the genre of chicklit writing in India. And, well, that will be my first and last of any chicklit novel in my life!

Last week, out of utter boredom, I picked this book and finished it in about say 5 hours straight. Of course, truth must be said, it’s quite a light and quick read. The language is rather simple and easy, and that’s really something to blog home about. But, as for the content, it’s completely a different story.

The book is basically about single women, pushing 30, who are in search of the love of their lives. The good thing about it is the way the author has captured the insecurities of women, especially in the context of marriage and relationships. It has also captured the uncompromising attitude of these women, who are completely independent and wouldn’t settle for anything less than what they think is perfect. The other good thing about the book is that, the author occasionally says something quite profound. Like for example, when your parents stop matchmaking and turn philosophical, it’s time to worry! And, all of it is said with lot of satire and wit, which makes it enjoyable in parts.

Now, what was it about the book that’s rather irksome? Having lived a single life in a big city myself, I found the book rather flippant. Especially, because it’s posited as a book that has found fans among the new and emerging breed of the independent Indian woman! Well, it could be among a small (rather minuscule) percentage of women, who come from quite well off backgrounds into the big city for various reasons other than work such as higher studies or to go abroad. The maximum of women who come into the big cities are from poorer backgrounds and who live in small houses or even hostels so that they could send money home. I have known of women who would in all make just 8000 a month and send home almost 5 to 6 and pay something like 1.5k for rent. And, in the novel all the women are all the time hanging out in baristas, 5 star hotels, and swanky pubs! At one hand, they are the most liberated women who earn a lot of money, live on their own, and chart their own life story, but on the other hand, they wouldn’t bat an eyelid before trooping all saree-clad to a mataji who will ward off an evil eye, consult their astrologers, or observe the karva chauth like demented morons. This is where my angst or rather irritation lies. It’s the ease with which people (so-called liberated) take to age-old customs and traditions that are nothing but the products of a casteistic society! Here’s where the problem with bracketing all Indian women (emerging new breed!) under one umbrella begins. For example, women from lower caste backgrounds or dark-skinned women can never ever identify with the ‘Indian’ woman in this novel! And such women form the majority of Indian women, and who does the woman in the novel represent? She is after all the prefect blend of modernity and tradition necessitated by globalization and modern hindutva. And, that’s why this will be my first and last chicklit novel.

Ps: Just thought I need to elaborate a bit on last part. With globalization, capitalism is here to stay, which requires the labor of men and women, without any gender differentiation. Which means, women need to adapt to the changing world: travel alone, live alone, etc. Modern version of hindutva would mean, just do whatever you want to do with your life, just ensure that you don’t forget our sanskriti and that means, don’t fall in love with someone out of caste or class, observe the traditions (even if they are demeaning to women and lower castes on principle), visit astrologers (even if it goes completely against all science), wear sindoor, etc. I know some of you might argue that it's silly of me to be saying this, especially after the Mangalore pub attack. But, then, how about the anti-reservation protests? I am sure there will be a lot of common supporters for these two issues, and that's where the modern hindutva raises it's venomous head!


kothai said...

i like your take of the "women with autonomy" as perceived as those in white-collared jobs, as if working as a cleaner in barista, and having your space does not matter.

But it's not hindutva. It's right-wing liberalism, i think what you are referring to here.

Hindutva is something else. (of course, the right-wing class also endorses several political positions of the BJP). While the BJP, RSS, Bajrang Dal etc share ideological filiality, RSS, Shiv Sena and Bajrang Dal operate differently. RSS is authoritarian fanaticism. Bajrang Dal is simply a disparate rogue group.

Bajrang Dal and Shiv Sena will find it very difficult to penetrate their methods (if there are any) into the urbanised upper class. RSS is a strong cadre-based mass organisation and is extremely dangerous. Although they use militarist-like methods to weild their ideology, it is far more nuanced in its politics, right-wing of course.

Maintream political parties, religious units, cadres and rogue groups use each other to push their agenda. but they are not 'exactly' the same.

Talkign of casteist politics, it is far more complex than what we see in Tamil Nadu. In Karnataka for instance, it is the re-conversion of the converts that is being taken up by the maths. They recognise casteist oppression (Oh??) and have taken upon themselves this task of reconverting. This is the larger hindutva agenda for political gain and political representation.

But as far as the book is concerned, from what I gather, it seems like a regular Anita Nair kind of liberal crap. so a sweeper's story is a dukhi-paavam kadai, and that is touted as feminism. Bullshit it is. :-)) we shoudl meet up and abuse this lot collectively. that'll be cathartic. Long since I did that. hahaha!!

Saravana Raja said...

nice. find an evolution in form and content...

Accidental Fame Junkie said...

Indian chick lit! *breathes deeply* I unequivocally hate chick lit, desi or videsi. I read one of them too. Meenakshi Reddy Madhavan's You are Here. By accident. The people she hangs out with seem intelligent. So I thought I'd indulge her book. Big mistake. Please don't waste your time. They are all templatized creations of yet another stereotype, put into practice to subjugate women. One of the reasons why you didn't find echoes of your reality. Well, neither did I.


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