The Books page has two reviews:
There’s also a list of ten books that will be released between August and December and should be on your wishlist. But for one, they’re all fiction titles, which warms the cockles of this fiction-lover’s heart.
Elsewhere in The Mag, I wrote a piece about the ideal desi woman as depicted in our English pop fiction. I’ve heard so much — from publishers as well as readers — about how this genre is “rooted in reality” and uses English the way India really speaks it that it’s starting to make my hair curl. (My hair, like the rest of me, is rather flat, boring and straight in its natural, unprovoked state.) So “What Men Want” is part of a campaign in which I would like to posit the theory that pop fiction is about as unrealistic as steampunk. It’s just less imaginative and badly-written. I say “campaign”, but let’s face it, I’m not sure I have the fortitude to endure much more of prose like what I read in That’s The Way We Met… Kya Life Hogi Set and Revolution 2020.
I can’t find a link to the article in the newspaper website so I’m putting up the unedited (word count woes) version up here. Enjoy.
What Men Want
Looking for the perfect woman? Deepanjana Pal pieces her together from the most recent novels by two bestselling male authors, Chetan Bhagat and Sudeep Nagarkar
According to the data collected by the 2011 census, the sex ratio in India stands at 914 girls against every 1,000 boys under the age of six. Logically speaking, this should mean women get to lounge about like the Roman emperors of yore while men feed them grapes and hover around tentatively, desperately seeking the approval of mistresses. Sadly, this does not seem likely despite the statistics. As most women will confirm, the ratio of males to real men – the kind who can sweep a girl off her feet and make her believe in happily ever after – seems to be worse than the country’s sex ratio. (The plight of gay men is, no doubt, a minefield of disappointments and we’re steering clear of that for the purposes of this article.) Net result: the pressure is on women to be perfect in order to appeal to men. Perfection, however, is a difficult thing to ascertain, especially when it comes to matters of the heart.
We decided to turn to popular Indian fiction in English, which according to its authors, fans and publishers reflects the thinking and beliefs of the Indian youth, to figure out what the sons of the soil want. After going through Chetan Bhagat’s Revolution 2020 and Sudeep Nagarkar’s That’s The Way We Met…Kya Life Hogi Set carefully, here’s what we’ve gathered. Ladies, take notes.
The Good News
The twenty-first century is truly here – both novels have working women as heroines. Admittedly, the job is one that allows her to be at the hero’s beck and call, but the lovers are supportive of their girlfriends’ careers.
She isn’t intimidated by either alcohol or marijuana. The first she partakes of with as much enthusiasm as the men. As for the latter, she may not be a pothead but she doesn’t balk at the sight of a joint either. In fact, Revolution 2020’s, Aarti even tries a puff.
Finally, the new Indian woman has premarital sex. This does not make her a creature of base instincts and loose morals. If anything, it makes her all the more alluring to the hero. Not just that, Bhagat and Nagarkar don’t dwell on virginity. Neither Aarti and Riya exhibit any stereotypical virginal coyness about sex. Aarti, in all probability, has had sex with at least one other man, but this isn’t something that even briefly affects the desire that Gopal, the protagonist of Revolution 2020, feels for her. We hope Bhagat’s fans take this leaf out of Gopal’s book.
Beauty and the Beholder
Predictably, if you’re not beautiful, you don’t get the guy; particularly since it seems guys have an eagle-eye gaze for the specifics of their girlfriends’ appearances. Here’s a description of Riya by Aadi in That’s the Way…:
“Her black eyeliner highlighted her already pretty eyes. Her glossy lips added colour to her face. She hadn’t worn any accessories, which I was glad about, as it would then seem overdone.”
In case you were wondering, Aadi is not a fashion stylist.
Bhagat and Nagarkar’s heroes both frown upon make-up, stressing upon natural beauty. Lip gloss, however, has their approval and is encouraged.
The Other Side of the Coin
Curiously, both Riya of That’s The Way… and Aarti of Revolution 2020 belong to families whose financial situations are significantly better than that of the heroes’. Aside from this adhering to an age-old setup of ‘poor little boy meets rich little girl’, it makes her career a casual matter rather than a necessity.
Consequently, while we hear about Aadi’s mundane job in great detail in That’s The Way…, Riya simply works in an office (which is, conveniently, located close to Aadi’s). Aarti, in Revolution 2020, decides she can’t give the competitive exams because they’ll be held the week Main Hoon Na is releasing and she can’t miss possibly miss the film. But naturally. She also says she’s determined to be an airhostess and yet, she idles years away while the two men in the novel build their careers. Essentially, the reason for a girlfriend’s existence is to stand by her man until she must break his heart.
In case you were getting excited about the Indian woman’s sexual liberation, a word of caution. Foreplay, as far as these new age heroes are concerned, is a curious thing. Gopal, for instance, “plundered her neck, planting as many kisses as the raindrops on the window”. Aadi recalls in That’s The Way…, “I touched her back with my fingertips and heard her moan. … I … gave her a deep kiss on the lips. She moaned in pleasure, returning my kisses with ardour. I took a strawberry and rolled it all over her. She could no longer hold herself…”.
Clearly, a woman must have two qualities: low expectations in matters of sexual technique and a willingness to moan. A healthy appetite may be advantageous, given the leit motif of food in Nagarkar’s seduction techniques. On one occasion, the couple splatter cake on each other’s faces and lick it off. When strawberries and chocolate appear in the bedroom, she “devours” the food. The reaction to her naked lover, on the other hand, is a moan. This behaviour earns her the label of being “a wildcat in bed”. Her response is not a moan but a coy, whispered “Shut up, Aadi”.
Terms of endearment
Charm isn’t just about lip gloss, but also about the words those lip-glossed lips speak. In Revolution 2020, Bhagat, using the via medium of Gopal, presents a number of observations about women and their characteristics, which are presumably among the factors that make them irresistible to the opposite sex. For example, “When girls are hiding something, they start speaking like boys and use expressions like ‘cool’.” Also, “If girls got to set grammar rules in this world, there would only be exclamation marks.” It’s another matter that this is the opinion of a character whose expertise with language may be glimpsed in observations like, “But she could never understand that losers, even if they do not have a brain, have a heart”, which suggests all losers – in the world? India? Varanasi? – share a single heart. Not to mention the fact that Aarti’s grammar is being mocked by an author who titled one section of Revolution 2020,“three more years later”.
In addition to these chief characteristics, there are other less critical qualities, like coming up with idiotic nicknames for your boyfriend (like “bachhu”) and being inclined to shed a single tear when faced with anything ranging from orgasm to heartbreak.