Riveting family saga
Reviewed by Aditi Garg

Bombay Girl
By Kavita Daswani.
Harper Collins India. Pages 310. Rs 199

You can take an Indian out of India but cannot take India out of him. In fact, the farther away we move, the stronger the hold of traditions and beliefs gets. Around the world, the great Indian wedding still happens between two families and not two individuals. Family approval is of the utmost importance and should the elders decide otherwise, you can put your plans aside and start afresh. In the mechanics of a joint family, it gets difficult to cater to the whims of an individual and all decisions stem from the fulfilment of the greater good. The strong patriarchal setup rules the dynamics of the family and rebellion is not as effective as working your way around things.

The changing face of the new generation, coupled with powerful ties with the institution of the joint family and the forceful pull of young love form the backdrop for the latest novel by Kavita Daswani, Bombay Girl. From the best-selling author of For Matrimonial Purposes, Indie Girl, Salaam, Paris and The Village Bride of Beverly Hils, comes another book that grips you till the very end. Daswani is an international journalist covering a multitude of topics for a range of global publications. She has been associated with South China Morning Post, WWD, Los Angeles Times, Cosmetic News Weekly, Tatler and many more. She has also written for Vogue, Conde Nast Traveller and Grazia Italiaís Indian editions. Her books have been published in 17 languages.

The story follows the life of Sohana Badshah, heiress of the wealthiest family in India who shot to fame overnight owing to an article in a tabloid. She has always envisioned hers to be the perfect family and when skeletons jump out of closets, she is, to say the least, taken aback. As she delves deeper into the dynamics of her family, she uncovers one secret after another. A paternal grand-uncle, who is very fond of the only grand-daughter in the family, reveals stories about the family that seem stranger than fiction. There are cousins vying for their place in the family business and have been pitted against each other. She finds herself taking sides even when she is not very happy about it. And then there is the endless struggle to make herself heard and treated like an adult; that too in a family obsessed with male heirs.

Baba, as the head of the family, exudes an air of authority. Everyone in the family listens to him, if not for respect, then for the millions that he could bestow on them. There is a mix of characters who border on being nerdy to the downright jealous and the inanely greedy. Sohana never had to think before spending all her life and now, in the new scheme of things, maintaining that lifestyle seemed to be increasingly difficult. Her love had been snatched away from her because of this very family wealth and she was bent upon unravelling the mystery which had grabbed headlines. Jag is the quintessential prince charming, who has swept Sohana off her feet and continues to haunt her even after they have broken up. Despite the differences, he continues to do the right thing.

The pursuit of fresh ideas keeps young people on their toes. The places that attract them, where they let their hair down and the most popular names in fashion, hospitality figure in this novel and take you on a flight of fancy.

A very readable book that has romance, secrets, jealousy, humour and drama. Straight from the diary of the extended Indian Joint family, it is something that happens only in India. The uber chic rich, the wannabe middle class and the struggle to keep up with the Joneses makes it a truly Bharatiya saga.