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Lovely and sweet book. Allows for great insight into the new India that gives the reader compassion and affectionate understanding of a society that has undergone such amazing and rapid changes over the past two decades. I chuckled specifically as I recalled recently overhearing an Indian fellow in an airport shouting on his phone saying to the person on the other end: "you must impress! What ever you do, you must ensure that you impress them!". At the time, I rolled my eyes but now am seeing that in a new light. Having grown up with ample resources and not one to give a hoot about any of that stuff as an adult (have kind of become a reverse snob and far more basic in my needs), this has given me pause to not unfairly judge societies that have worked so hard to get where they are. And if it gives them comfort to spend a little on things that I would not even remotely consider wasting money on, so be it. We all have different values and priorities but at heart we are all wonderful and equal human beings at any level of the 'social strata'.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Not many books make me laugh out loud but this one did in spots. The characters are engaging, and a tad infuriating, but overall loveable, and the story is sweet, a clash of cultures and within a culture a clash of money vs. not-so-much money. I was glad that the caste system and the completely impoverished were not so prominent in this story, which would have changed the tone completely. Kudos to this first-time novelist.
The characters fairly leap off the page in this thoroughly engaging “keeping-up-with-the-Chopras” novel by Diksha Basu.
Mr & Mrs Jha have been content for decades living in their cramped flat in an East Delhi block that has seen better days. It’s the kind of place where people are in and out of each other’s front door and each other’s lives. When software engineer Mr Jha sells his start-up for an unexpectedly vast sum, he’s thrilled to bits to be going up in the world. But how’s he going to break it to the neighbours that they’re moving on?
Our Mr Jha is tickled pink with his new electronic shoe polishing machine until Mr Chopra - the flashy next-door neighbour in Gurgaon - spots it on the front seat of Mr Jha’s new Mercedes and pooh-poohs such a contraption. Mr Jha considers the idea of butlers: “a different sort of pleasure than having servants bringing you food and cleaning your home. Butlers showed that you had made the progression from servants to expensive appliances to uniformed men who ran the expensive appliances.”
Some interesting one-upmanship goes on between Mr Jha and Mr Chopra. They compete for the privilege of being the father of the most indolent son: in this way, they demonstrate to the neighbourhood that they are wealthy enough to support their grown-up offspring!
Mrs Jha is a different kettle of fish altogether. Recently retired from her worthwhile job, she’s uncomfortable with the move, worried about fitting in and concerned that their son Rupak (studying lackadaisically in the States) isn’t eating properly and also that he’ll fall for a pretty blonde American girl. (He isn’t and he does.) When they go to New York to visit, her husband takes her to Tiffany’s and this scene alone is worth the price of entry. How Mrs Jha longs to look like Audrey Hepburn!
This sharply observed ‘comedy of manners’ really is a delight. I believe it may be Diksha Basu’s first novel – if so, it’s a confident debut. She has produced a perfectly poised narrative where the humour is counter-balanced by the book’s serious social and cultural points, and she has peopled it with some appealing (and some not-so-appealing) characters. Admittedly, one or two may be a little broad stroke and one or two scenes a bit over the top but even so there was an underlying subtlety of purpose and development throughout. Don’t let the flippancy of the front cover typography put you off: this may be an easy read - but it's a good one.
This is a sharp funny book but with a lot of heart. It’s a great story that resonates with modern India. I read this whilst travelling in southern India and it was really interesting to see some of the book in real life