By Tina Biswas. Grade: B
Set in England, India and Ireland, a comic tale of fish out of water.
When her boorish father dies, fat, unsophisticated Mousumi is sent from India to her cosmopolitan relations in London. For the glamour of the western world, she leaves behind both her forlorn mother and an amorous shopkeeper.On arrival, she is met by the Majumdar family: Prakash – a doctor with too much heart, great cook and man-about-the-house; Tuhina – a successful investment banker, indulgent mother and minder of Ps and Qs; and Darshini – a nonchalant eighteen-year-old, audacious coin-flipper and possessor of ethereal beauty. Such an offbeat household terrifies Mousumi – how will she fit in? Can she meet their high standards? And will she begin to question the life she has known? A witty social comedy of cultural misunderstanding and people who simply don’t get on.
When a book has a title like Dancing With The Two-Headed Tigress, you expect some word play and lots of moves.
‘Two-headed tigress’ is Prakash Majumdar’s private metaphor for the lethal duo of daughter-mother in their home in London. Suffering from the despondency and melancholy of an immigrant, Prakash feels trapped and suffocated when he looks at his much more successful wife and daughter.
Tuhina is high-heeled successful investment banker with a style that would make a shark smirk. Darshini, the daughter of Tuhina and Prakash is a nonchalant, beautiful, uber cool young eighteen year-old girl, who undermines any idea of having traditional Indian male authority. On the other hand, we have chubby, unsophisticated sloven Mousumi, who is sent to London to live with her never-met-before relatives after the death of her brooding father. This new guest in the family transforms the life of Prakash. Now he has a companion who likes to gobble his cooked food and doesn’t laugh at his eccentricities. This is met with resistance by the duo, who get sidelined in their dominant territory.
Basically the story is a young and modern illegitimate progeny of Bollywood’s nineties’ Amiri Garibi and 92’s Beta. Now there is nothing inherently wrong with these type of stories but it is painfully slow and the thrill inevitably transforms into a tiresome reading experience. It is a pity, because Dancing With The Two-Headed Tigress has a beginning that is pregnant with possibilities of an amazing book. Yes, we get the expected chuckles from the situational humour and acts of Mousumi. The problem is that the book doesn’t rise beyond the the clichéd and the predictable. It is a book about cultural misunderstandings. It’s a book with a potential of a sequel on its beautifully woven characters but with a failed story, that seems unlikely. Even after one has admitted that the plot is riddled with more holes than the bed of a perky motel in old Delhi, yours truly will still giv it a ‘B’, the saving grace being the felicity in writing. The characters are glorious and flawed, made more vivid by the gently mocking commentary. The characters are so well developed that half the pages are spent in that.
It is beautifully written but it clumsily dances on the line between readable and the darned boring. Fortunately, there is something kind of admirable about this, like watching a ship sink. I do admire Biswas’ prowess with the pen and her ability to write a masterpiece, it’s just that this is not that book.