Friday, November 13, 2009

Anatomy of the page 3 crowd

Best selling author Dan Brown’s writing exploits have been described by Edinburgh professor of linguistics Geoffrey Pullum as, “Brown’s writing is not just bad; it is staggeringly, clumsily, thoughtlessly, almost ingeniously bad.” One would echo Pullum’s sentiments after ploughing through Ira Trivedi’s sophomore work The Great Indian Love Story. The audacious title notwithstanding, this book is to be read only if one wants to expand his understanding of the word trite to infinity.
An alternative title for the book could have been Love Aaj Kal. Here’s why. Set among the page 3 crowd of Delhi, the Love Aaj part is about two women, who are friends — Serena and Riya. The book starts with Riya’s life in the US and how the recession has had a debilitating effect on her life, both personally and professionally. Only a few pages later do you realise that Riya’s character is the book’s moral buffer and that she will introduce Serena into the narrative.
Serena, “who lives her life one debauched night at a time”, takes to wrong men like fish to water. One such man is Amar Khanna — a coke addict, serial adulterer and, more importantly, a husband. To understand why things have come to such a pass, Ira weaves a hackneyed past set in Serena’s student days in the US where the latter is knocked up by her long-time boyfriend Salman and, consequently, cracks develop in the relationship when Serena wants to keep her baby and Salman doesn’t. After a crude abortion and a broken heart, Serena returns home where bigger shocks await her.
Here starts the Love Kal part. Her mother Parmeet and IAS father SP (just SP) get divorced. Parmeet finds love out of the marriage in Randeep, whom she eventually marries; not before a cuckolded SP gets vicious towards Randeep
and drives him to a point where he appears for civils and becomes a bureaucrat. Upset over his wife’s conduct SP dies of heartbreak. Consequen­tly, Serena starts staying with her mother and step-father, something not to Serena’s liking. The accounts of the trio that make up Love Kal part are like overlapped dialogues, something only Robert Altman can pull off, and here it seems no more than warbled monologues.
It’s pointless to even discuss the book’s predictable denouement. That would be as sensible as asking what would come after electricity. More than the soporific storyline it is the jaundiced eye of Ira that gets on the nerves. She paints the entire page 3 crowd with the same thick brush, what with Serena having one-night stands as frequently as Martin Scorsese’s characters mouth expletives. What’s more, she even has a boy toy.
Ira studied at elite institutes like Columbia Business School and Wellesley College. However, some serious gaps in her education come to
the fore in this book. How else can one explain phrases like “master the art of bullshitting” and words like rocking, babe, perv in the book? To talk of grammatical howlers in this alleged drama would be nitpicking.
Ira’s debut novel What Would You Do To Save The World was a far better work than the current one because of its honesty. In The Great Indian Love Story Ira’s prose sparkles, albeit sporadically. Despite drawing caricatures of the high and mighty, she has been able to describe their ethos with panache. However, that doesn’t mean the material is compelling.


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