Title: The Recession Groom
Publisher: Jufic Books
Price: Rs. 299
What do you do when you are in the middle of a boardroom meeting of a glamourous multinational company and your aunt calls you to discuss about your future bride? Do you give in to the demands of your family to marry the traditional girl they have chosen for you or do you listen to your heart and marry the girl of your dreams? The Recession Groom by Vani focuses on a protagonist who is a brilliant representation of these contradictions and the double life he becomes resigned to living as he balances his office work with his family. What is fascinating perhaps is that the suave, well-paid white-collar protagonist shows that he can be vulnerable to the dictates of blind tradition at times — his diasporic consciousness results in an innate feeling of homelessness and a desperate effort to clutch onto his roots. These subaltern moments along with the myriad contradictions lead to a culture of hybridity and a sense of fractured modernity in him which his office colleagues in Canada struggle to comprehend at times.
Parshuraman Joshi is a 27 year old handsome IT professional working in Canada. A workaholic trying incessantly to keep up deadlines, he is engrossed in working for Project Infinite and marriage seems to be the last thing on his mind. But his sister Ragini and his aunt Parvati cannot worry about anything else as they line up one potential bride after another for him and are ready to sell his credentials to good effect in the marriage market. More often than not, however, this match-making has disastrous consequences and ends in one minor embarrassment after another for Parshuraman. And unbeknown to himself, he harbours a secret passion for his firebrand colleague Jennifer who in turn is coy about her own feelings for him.
The story moves at a good pace which makes it a light and immensely readable book. Through Ragini’s incessant urge of match-making for her brother and the ever garrulous aunt Parvati, Vani draws an excellent portrait of the parochial excesses of a quintessential North Indian family. The story accurately captures their over anxious zeal to find the best bride for Parshuraman which ends up giving him very little personal room for choice and thus infantilizing him in the process. As Parshuraman surprisingly puts up with their whims in good humour, it provides us with much scope for reflection on this tiny subversive social space within the sphere of the traditional Indian family where women dictate the terms and conditions. However, the fact that Parshuraman accepts their bullying whole-heartedly makes him come across as an inconceivably weak character at times. The novel in a way stops short of exploiting the transgressive possibilities of satirizing the parochial excesses of the family.
Jennifer’s character could have been fleshed out in more detail. Some of her idiosyncrasies while she visits Parshuraman’s home in Chandigarh are tough to fathom and seem a bit too forced at times. Much of her behaviour comes across as carefully contrived to deliver the proverbial punch but seems too exaggerated and comical at best. Jennifer disappears from the story for a large chunk of the plot and it would have been interesting if the reader got to see things from her perspective as well. Parshuraman’s whirlwind romance with Tara meets somewhat of a predictable end and by the time the ill-fated protagonist passes out drunk in the bar, the narrative in spite of its delectable meanderings has somehow lost itself. Much like the time when Parshuraman gets roughed up by a bunch of thugs and ends up in a hospital, the series of setbacks that he suffers sometimes seem to be an exhibition in sadism like an old Victorian novel.
The narrative excesses that the plot harbours seem to have taken a leaf out of mainstream Bollywood romances at times. And in spite of the twists and turns, the plot seems to be resigned to a predictable outcome from the very beginning — Parshuraman’s relationship with Jennifer could not have ended in any other way after all. The Recession Groom, however, does not fail to throw up moments of unadulterated surprise and enjoyment when you least expect to encounter them. The endless twists and turns, metaphoric perhaps of the tiresome oscillations that fate subjects us to in life, will not let you settle into complacency or boredom from the very beginning. The quirks and flow of the plot lend an unaffected candour to the story and make it quite a pleasurable read in the end.
This Book Review is a part of The Readers Cosmos Book Review cycle and Blog Tours. To get free books log on to http://thereaderscosmos.blogspot.in/ .