By Rashmi Kumar. Grade: B
Since a writer is affected by the times he or she writes in and the society at large, Rashmi Kumar, being true to her roots, brings out in her novel, the tumultuous journey of Alafia Singh, a 31 year old woman, almost desperate in her search for a match, and all that ensues.
If you are a woman in your 30s, and are yet unmarried or deserted or divorced, living in India will make you belong to a category which finds extremely hard to find the right man to just be with. Such women will be labelled as cynical, and acquire disastrously special statuses such as unreasonable or demanding or chronically single or bossy! In this title, one such woman is pleading with God, asking the same question that might be resonating inside the minds of the rest of her kind – “where have I gone wrong?” Alafia Singh is on a similar journey, as she has set out to find a life partner for herself, but by following traditional methods. Will she be successful in her attempts?
Alafia is a modern independent writer with almost a picture perfect life, the only missing piece being the clichéd Prince Charming. She had been married once, at the age of 21, the marriage lasting mere eleven months. Since that rough patch, Alafia had tried her luck with a number of men, though none seemed to work. The novel is beset with a number of humorous situations and incidents, with Alafia working her way around the matrimonial sites, meeting an assortment of individuals who either find her bland or are intimidated by her (and maybe too shocked to see the desperation she tries to unsuccessfully hide). While chances of finding the perfect man are dwindling by the minute for Alafia, the clock ticking away and the societal pressures of the Indian aunties closing in, her twenty four year sister announces her marriage and things are almost set to go downhill from here for the divorcee elder sister. But everything comes together conveniently near the end as Alafia manages to tie the loose ends of her life at a retreat on a surprise holiday, where she rediscovers her independence and makes peace with herself, almost to our relief.
The book is simple and humorous in its essence. It has some engaging and real characters which one can more often than not, relate to. Alafia is interesting and the writer has successfully projected the big fat Indian drama around “settling down”, the hullabaloo it creates and how women tend to often compromise with life, and give in to the pressures. At one point, it makes us almost root for her cause. Other characters like Alafia’s best friend Myra or the spiritual guru she encounters are not too detailed neither insubstantial, thus granting them vivid yet not too exhausting roles.
While the questions that resonate in the mind of Alafia and women of her kind are nothing uncommon, with the subtextual conscience (and the aunties) shouting out in big bold texts “it’s your fault”, what is so special about this book? That’s where the hard truth lies. Nothing is extraordinary. While the book is amusing and realistic, it fails to strike a chord with its repetitive monologue and artificial conversations in the mind of the character. The events are dragged to almost boredom and at the end, where Alafia breaks free from the shackles of scrutiny by the society, is shorter than what we would’ve wanted to read.
Good chick-lit for a short plane ride, but nothing that’ll stick to the mind.