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!
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