The cover of Those Pricey Thakur Girls proclaims that Anuja Chauhan is “the only Indian writer of popular fiction really worth buying” (Mint). And I have to say — I damn well agree! Leave aside your Chetan Bhagat’s, toss away your Durjoy Datta’s, because Anuja Chauhan is what true popular fiction is all about.
I first encountered Anuja Chauhan back in 2008 with the delicious The Zoya Factor. And while I haven’t read her other book (Battle for Bittora), she is one HILARIOUS author with an amazing eye for language and colloquial nuances.
I’m going to skip over the story and tell you what I liked and disliked about the book:
1. Hilariously inappropriate! – Oh, yeah! She can make you gasp with laughter with her sudden quips. Absolutely inappropriate words coming out of the least expected targets (Eg. “No talking, all cocking” or “heart-stealer, hymen-breaker”!!!) Thoroughly enjoyable!
2. Frivolous but entertaining – It’s almost like (most) Bollywood flicks; you sit down and you know 80% of the story is going to be silly, but damn entertaining nonetheless. Anuja Chauhan does it and does it well! You can call it chick lit or whatever you want, but the story is light and frothy like a well-beaten omlet (I’m starting to use similes like her!) Sitting on the beach sipping on your Caprioska? This is the kind of book you want to be reading (especially when a tall, dark, handsome guy boinks you over the head with a volleyball).
3. What an eye and an ear!!!! – She recreates old Punjabi dadi’s, the local store owner, the teenager going to Modern School, the Mangalorean Noronhas, and so on, to perfection! Really!! Wow, it’s quite incredible how she captures them in just a couple of words.
4. D for Dylan – Okay, he comes across as a mouth-watering piece of toffee-brown chocolate fudge sauce. Whatever that means. I like his character a lot.
5. T for Thakurs & S for Shekhawat – Both these families are adorable (warts and all). Very real, very hilarious.
6. 80’s Delhi/India – Anuja does an incredible job recreated this time period. From things like video cassette news reports (didn’t know they existed!) to small mentions like “coca-cola may come back to India” to just the slow, summer heat while driving in an Ambassador down central Delhi.
1. D for Debjani – Something seems a little off about her character. Prim but proud, beautiful but not. The most disturbing / unbelievable point was when (spoiler alert) she refuses to marry Dylan when she realises that he’s the one who wrote the nasty article about her. It seemed too coincidental and contrived — simply to add suspense and tension to the story.
2. The socio-political element to the story – Firstly, the entire riot story, the evil character of Motla, Dylan being set up and thrown in jail is too similar to reality to be entertaining. Frivolous (yet entertaining) writing does not combine well with a serious socio-political point. The 1984 riots were not a joke, and while Chauhan doesn’t undermine the seriousness of the situation at all, it just doesn’t go well with the rest of the story. I’d prefer it if she would write about things that weren’t so serious. It suits her writing more and I think she makes a stronger point when talking about issues that occur in domestic spaces (eg. daughter’s inheritance.) Secondly, it seemed weak to veil the 1984 riots. Eg, taking place in Tirathpuri instead of Trilokpuri post the assassination of an unnamed “leader”. If you’re making a point, make it strongly or don’t make it at all.
3. Excuses for social discomfort – When Vickyji calls Dylan’s family “scheduled castes who converted to Christainity”, the mother (or aunt) says that they were Brahmins who were excommunicated for eating fish. Come on, that just sounds like an excuse.
Nonetheless, fun and fabulous should be Anuja Chauhan’s middle name. I would definitely recommend Those Pricey Thakur Girls.