Keep The Change

So finally there is a chick book by an Indian author I can review and give a thumbs up.

“Keep The Change” by Nirupama Subramanian is the non-too-frothy, slightly-Bridget-Jones type novel that is set in Chennai and Mumbai.

As any Indian would know… or as any South Indian would know – Chennai and Mumbai could be two different planets altogether. In attitudes, cultures, language and anything else. So the protagonist – Damayanthi Balanchander (could you get more Tam than that) moves to Bombay after getting tired of her hole-in-the-wall job at a traditional accounting firm in Chennai.

She is a typical Tam Bram… with her parents trying to get her married off, while regaling her with ‘happily married’ stories about her peers. Sounds familiar? Perhaps it is the story line of a million other 100-buck books in the store, but the author takes us through it with a light sense of humor that keeps you engrossed even as you roll your eyes.

D is the woman of today. And by that, I do not mean the smoking, drinking, swearing, bed-hopping, independent woman. She wants to be independent, she wants to explore the world outside her traditional Chennai. Of course she wants to be in a relationship but she doesn’t want to get married to any oily-haired Tam Bram her parents bring to their doorstep.

So when she gets a chance to move to Mumbai and work in the corporate world, she flies.

The book does not go overboard at most points. When it does, you can ignore those couple of sentences for the humor in the rest of the book. The book does not delve into anyone else’s psyche too deep. There is the bitchy roommate, the goofy and fun office friend, the slimy boss. Perhaps it wouldn’t been interesting to see more colour into those people but they merely serve as mirrors for D to examine herself and figure out what she wants her next step to be.

So here she is in the corporate world with all its silly gossip, colorful characters and back biting. And there is the Hugh Grant vs. Colin Firth types, inspired by Bridget Jones.

Perhaps D is a bit of Bridget Jones, with her slight obsession with weight and ice cream. But she is also vegetarian, discovering booze and men for the first time and not with a disastrous result.

What makes the book entertaining? It isn’t the dark journey into one woman’s journey into the 21st century. Most Indian women, hailing from traditional backgrounds, have to break out of the mother’s voice in the head. The voice asking you not to drink, not to drink and drive, not to kiss that random stranger. We become experts in ignoring that voice after a while but would’ve replaced it with our own version by that point.

And that is the journey we follow D in.

And it is a relief to see that the author did not choose one side and kept the balance most modern Indian women strive for today.

It is definitely a relief particularly after my last debacle with Adveitha Kala’s whatever that book was where the lead is this whole ‘i’m so cool and single and independent and modern and happening and all i want is a rich guy to get married to and quit my job.’

If “Keep The Change” is the kind of book that will come out in Indian women literature, there should be some interesting reading in the chick lit genre soon.

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