From Kohlapuris to ear piercing
Reviewed by Rajbir Deswal

Right Fit Wrong Shoe
By Varsha Dixit.
Pages 234. Rs 95.

INDIAN Kohlapuris are not permitted in the West-influenced corporate offices in India, while ear piercing may be. This sums up the mood of the book, which otherwise has no story line but a narrative sequence that has no highs and lows but a free-flowing continuum, which is no doubt interesting to get along. More than storytelling, gossip-selling seems to be the author Varsha Dixit’s tool here. Undoubtedly, she impresses though.

If the mystical, captivating and make-believe world of serious fiction has ingredients like intense drama, tense situations, haunting suspense, trepidation, hold-ups, continued and indulgent obsession to sink in, besides love and betrayal, murder and survival, real and surreal, then Right Fit Wrong Shoe is not the right stuff you are looking for.

This light fiction has ‘Cawnpore’—an imperial town of the United Provinces—as its locale, where all action (almost none!) is centred. Twenty-six years old, intelligent and forward-looking Nandini is holed up here in a mess of, largely her own creation, in devolving to struggle and slug it out, being in a ‘love-to-hate relationship’ with a rich and famous, and spoiled Aditya—heir to an enviable business empire and the most eligible bachelor around.

The heroine Nandini howsoever rubbished (and almost ravaged!) by Aditya Sarin, represents the modern progressive and forward-looking woman who despite her secret love for her man would not like to be his ‘dish-on-the-table’ but the ‘main course and the dessert’. She is the one who would like to rub shoulders with men rather than lean on them. She even castigates Aditya, "... my foot, he probably thinks he is God’s gift to women." But at the same time, Nandini seems to be under such a spell of Aditya that the moment she finds herself so close to him, as to smell the fragrance of the deo in his armpits, she starts melting.

Varsha Dixit’s knowledge of the current mores, brands, styles, in-things, hypes, slangs is all-impressive and updated. Not that she takes enough supplemental stakes form Hindi movies only to make her storytelling more engrossing and funny, but she has a penchant for using excellent expressions when she says: "Nandini ate her smile ... she could almost taste bile in her mouth. ... irritating life out of him was as natural to her as salt to a Bloody Mary or kanda to paav bahji; and ... are we, the Queens of Ghantaghar (referring lewdly to a well-known expression in Hindustani)". Care to have a look at this: "Free food is the best—like sex free from any threats of pregnancy, STDs and HIV".

Situations howsoever comical or intense, or even grave (although there isn’t much of it in this book) are all poked here with fun, in clothing and phrasing the outbursts and interactive conversations of characters, into a style which these days comes very naturally to the representatives of Gen X and Y who speak more abbreviations than their elaboration, e.g., DBB (Desi Betty Boop), DDLJ (Dilwale Dhulhaniya Le Jayenge), BTW’s (By the Way), GRBR (Good Riddance to Bad Rubbish), SSS (Sweep, Serve and Smile) for a daughter-in-law, and AAA (Accept, Adapt and Adjust) for a mother-in-law, etc., etc.

The book, abundantly laced with impeccable prose and a kind of lyrical flow, is also fraught with what can be attributed to indignant liberties, and poetic license, on the part of the author, in using as many colloquial and Bollywood-en expressions as could be at her command, making her style and technique a unique and spicy one.

Varsha borrows Hindi films’ famous quotes and uses them appropriately and almost intrusively in her writing medium, i.e., English, sparing impunity for herself. Sample some: Bhagwan ke liye mujhe chhod do; Kutte main tera khoon pee jaaoonga; Hey, Ram! Ye dharti phat kyoon nahin jaati; Do jism ek jaan; Gutter ka kida; Haraamkhor, Kulta, Gadheri, Itna to banta hai; Kameenee Budhiya; Papi pet ka swal hai; Khush keeta; Ladka haath se nikal gya and gayi bhains pani main.

Every chapter here is titled after the name of a Hindi movie which appropriately sums up the contents. The author very frequently flashes back to enhance effect and is successful in maintaining interest to a great extent. The last line of a chapter generally shocks to lead on to the next episode. Varsha’s characters are real and live in a real, modern world. This reviewer would sure recommend the book for the new generation of readers, and not so old, too. But not too old.