Tag: Short Read

The Legend of Lakshmi Prasad, by Twinkle Khanna

“The weather forecast in the Indian Express had predicted a week of sunshine but on the day that Elisa Thomas was getting married for the third time to the same man, it began to rain.”

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You know when you’re at the checkout counter at the grocery store and you see a row of Tic Tacs arranged neatly? It’s some new flavour that everyone’s been talking about. You’re almost sure you won’t like the flavour, but then, curiosity messes up with all your better decisions.

Do you see where I’m going with this?

Twinkle Khanna’s memoir, Mrs. Funnybones was an instant hit that placed her firmly very high up in the literary circuit. Suddenly she was the “new big name” in Indian literature. Now, I’m not saying the book didn’t deserve to be a hit. I quite enjoy Twinkle Khanna’s columns myself (although they took me quite by surprise in the beginning to be honest). But when it comes to writing fiction, nope, she isn’t cut out to be a fiction writer. A one-word review of this book would be: boring.

The Legend of Lakshmi Prasad is a collection of four short stories, mainly centred around women. The first story, from which the book derives its title is about a young girl, who lives in a village where daughters are considered burdens (story of nearly every part of India). She comes up with a revolutionary idea to change this.
The second is Salaam, Noni Appa. It narrates the story of two sisters, Noni and Binni. Binni, the younger one, loves to follow fads and trends, and Noni, having nothing better to do, participates in her sister’s newest interests as and when they come. When they decide to join yoga classes, Noni finds herself attracted to their instructor, a married man with a shrill, ill-tempered wife.
The third story, If The Weather Permits is the story of Elisa, who gets married multiple times, each time to a terrible person. Every time she returns home, her father insists that a “man is a man is a man” and she must find the right one and marry soon. The story reminded me of Susannah’s Seven Husbands by Ruskin Bond and I liked the irony at the end. I would’ve liked this story even more had it not been for the racist stereotypes used to depict the Malayalee family – I found this to be the only decent story in this collection but it got ruined because of this. However, I have to say, the opening line of this story is the one noteworthy sentence I found in the whole book (quoted on top).
The final and the longest story, Sanitary Man in a Sacred Land is based on the true story of Muruganatham Arunachalam, who is most well known for making low cost pads in a village in Tamil Nadu. In the fictionalized version, the protagonist is called Bablu and lives in a village near Indore.

The premise and the intent of each of these stories is good. But the execution is terrible. It reads like a children’s book of parables, with rigid beginnings and equally rigid endings, often with a moral. Twinkle Khanna’s signature sarcasm is missing in these stories, resulting in dull writing and narratives that sound more like the summaries of the stories than the stories themselves. The very same plots in the hands of a different writer would have had very different results.

A disappointment, this. I bought it on a whim while at the checkout counter of my favourite bookstore. And that’s where it will go back on my next visit.

Goodreads | Amazon

 

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Alphabet Soup for Lovers, by Anita Nair

There was anita-nair-alphabet-soup-for-lovers-sreesha-divakarana time when I used to believe Anita Nair could do no wrong. I have enjoyed her writing as much as her characters have enjoyed each others’ company. I believe Idris is the only book by her that I’ve not read, and the ones I have, I’ve treated with a fangirl-like devotion.

Alphabet Soup for Lovers, on the other hand, could have been ghost written by an amateur.

In many ways – no, actually – in every way, ASFL is an abridged copy of the far superior Mistress. Those who know me know that Mistress ranks high on my Top 10 list. ASFL disappointed me in more ways than one. Reading it felt like someone was trying to copy Nair’s style, and plagiarize her work. I know how bizarre that sounds, given that the book is published in her name! But I cannot help but compare:

Mistress is the story of a kathakali artist, Koman, who tells us his story while watching his niece get entangled in an extra marital affair with the man who has come to interview him. He uses the nine forms of expression used in the dance form to narrate the story.

ASFL is the story of a cook, Komathi, who tells us her story (much less fascinating than Koman’s) while watching the woman she brought up as her own daughter get entangled in an extra martial affair with a man who has come to live in the homestay run by her and her husband. The cook uses the 26 letters of the alphabet to narrate the story.

ASFL is the alternative ending of Mistress. With only half of its beauty.

While the nine forms blended in a seamless metaphor in Mistress, the letters do nothing at all for ASFL. And while Mistress had complex characters that developed throughout, ASFL has characters out of a mould. They’re shells. Empty shells. Forgettable. Crumbleable.

Nair has not explored her full potential as an author, and in fact has done injustice to herself. The book reads like something she wrote on a whim – like a filler.

Disappointing, coming from Anita Nair, and thoroughly ordinary.

Goodreads | Amazon