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The book’s cover calls Sid a ‘man in progress’ and the cover behind the cover (yes, and that’s something of an innovation for a novel) calls him amiable, easy-going, lovable, beer-lover, idiosyncratic, witty, impulsive, thoughtless, vain, master of denial, idiotic, well-meaning, comical, vice-president, metrosexual, and smart-ass. Even his relationship with his wife in the first part of the novel has adjectives and descriptive words reserved for him.

So, ‘Public Sid-and-Mandira’, ‘Party Sid-and-Mandira’, Arty Sid-and-Mandira’, ‘Host Sid-and-Mandira’, ‘Host-and-Hostess Sid-and-Mandira’, and even ‘Family-Reunion-Sid-and-Mandira’ had all been fine.

Sid is a man with adjectives revolving all around him all the time. As I read this second book by Yashodhara Lal, this fascinating world of adjective-crowning hurtled through me making it impossible to escape the game. So I decided to call him names.

The brownie-sophical s-o-b

Here is a man who has transformed sitting on a bean-bag into a deliberate metaphysical art-form! And you meet this brownie-sophical Sid again and again throughout the novel. At one stage Yashodhara lets us all in into this very personal relationship when she writes…

Slowly, Brownie began to expand herself and Sid sank deeper into her. He hadn’t been prepared for the feeling of suffocation that would accompany this form of escape. He struggled but Brownie closed in on him relentlessly. He could no longer see the people around him. They were beginning to fade away. Sid felt himself choking. This is what death feels like, he thought in a detached manner even as his body struggled to resist the end. He didn’t know whether to feel grateful or resentful. Was Brownie rescuing him from his tortuous existence or was she too turning on him like all the others, choosing to punish him in this ghastly manner?

The reader finds Sid reaching out for his bean bag in all sorts of moods… sane, insane, sober, and even his beer-y ones. And this brings us to the next adjective that makes Sid more than a mere character in a novel.

The bollockseer

‘Hellooo… Friends, Romans and Countrymen, lend me your beers!’ Yes, Sid loves his beers and there are times when prefers a beer over even clinking wine glasses with Neha. Ah! Well, there are a lot of girls in his life and so one gets to meet Mandira, Neha, Aditi, Meenakshi, and Cynthia at some stage of Sid’s life in the pages… and all of them are as full of froth and bubbles as any of the lagers he makes a beeline for. Even the gifts that he yearns for tend to be beer-infused as Neha finds out when his glance at the far wall had given him away. She followed his gaze and then smiled knowingly. ‘You want the beer painting instead, don’t you?’

Sid, who had always wished he could have made it to six feet, is a man in his mid-thirties who is forever creating little messes that can, if the situation is right, pile into a massive hurdle. So no, he isn’t anything like the traditional meaning of bollocks, but is one of those bumbling beings who is lovable too. He simply ruins, botches up, screws up, bungles, mucks, louse up, or fuck up even the simplest things. Like the time he gives Aditi a hug…

‘Happy Birthday, Buddy-boy!’ he gave her his most charming grin and reached out to envelop her in a big, warm hug.
She stood there, unyielding and stiff. As a result, the big warm hug ended up as a clumsy one-sided embrace. He took a step back and saw that now she looked really mad.
‘What’s wrong?’ he asked, suppressing his own twinge of irritation. She didn’t have to make such an issue out of everything. It was only a little tardiness, after all.
‘It’s not my birthday, you dolt,’ she hissed. ‘It’s Ayaan’s.’

So there you are… this bollockseer Sid is always out to create situations that make you smile and sometimes laugh out loud… but hey, is he too laughing it off in the book? You need to read and discover this glamorous young professional who is a CTO. And this brings us to the next adjective for Sid.

The toilorous gonado-giggle

Well, he works hard, is smart and sensual, and rises to be the Chief Toilet officer in his organisation! So a toilorous Sid is what every reader is going to share their gonado giggles with.

Aditi’s snort was almost automatic. ‘Idiot you are! What’s with not knowing the day of the week? And how come you’re unhappy about tomorrow being a working day? I thought you enjoyed being “Super Toilet Cleaner Man”.’
‘Hey, don’t you run down my job – it’s damn interesting. In fact, do you know that I’m about to create the concept for a turd softener? It’ll make the whole flushing process…’
‘Eewwww, Sid… Shut up!’

But seriously, why would the HR head place her hand on his arm… or Neha, who stared right into Sid’s eyes. Then, still holding onto his hand, she started giggling softly… there must be charm chromosomes embedded in Sid’s personality for sure. Yes, this protagonist is certainly a glamorous one despite his job that makes him think of flushing it all somewhere. As a reader I found Sid being a cross between a comical character with all his bumbling around and a witty professional who could think hard to make you laugh!

The comittic attraction around

Sid was now telling the group about the maid Rukmini that mandira had outsourced. ‘I don’t know what’s wrong with her. She asked me yesterday if I wanted roti and I told her, ‘Nahin, parantha.’ She just stared at me, so I explained, ‘Tel lagakar parantha banao.’ Next I went into the kitchen and saw she was making rotis… only with some ghastly smelling oil in her hair. I’m telling you…’

Sid does have this genetic ability to capture the comical from whatever is happening around him… and he sometimes does get into that role as well. His faux pas when he asked Neha ‘So! When is the baby due?’ leads to his explanation that is a combination of the comic and the witty… he cringed inwardly as he heard himself blather on. ‘I was only asking when is the baby due to come here tonight.’ He put on a surprised look. ‘Wait a minute! You thought that I thought that I thought she was pregnant? Ha ha ha…’ The weak laughter died on his lips as he caught sight of Aditi’s face.

The comittic Sid in his carefully torn new jeans is the Sid we meet in the novel… and this hero cackles at his own silliness which is what endears him to readers. He isn’t always posing to be the best around. Well, he is good and fast and a thorough professional who is constantly getting screwed because he is seemingly conscientious about his work… and this is yet another facet of Sid that we meet in the novel.

The prickewed hilarity of Sid

Yes, this is the word I could think of when describing a character who is a prick and is also getting screwed all the time. So there is this holistic balance in his character… I mean, Sid isn’t one of those overwhelming pricks who is forever snubbing people and snuffing out their moments of glory and always prancing around like a peacock on fire! So well, a prickewed Sid is a sort of pickle prick that funnily gets screwed plenty of times in his life. Mandira, for one, screws his life for no valid reason.

He is the sort who you’d expect to tell Akash, his boss something that is similar to ‘Fine, FINE, boss.’ Even when he knows that he is being screwed by his boss when he hears him hop from giving him the slides for the annual plan and strategy to asking him to be proactive and conceptualising it all in one day to being able to help him with the broad framework to…

‘Email them to you?’ Akash interrupted. ‘at the moment they’re just some high-level growth ideas in my head, but wait! Why don’t I just quickly jot them down as bullet points for you?…’

What more?

Sid isn’t just a character in a novel who is perpetually in some or the other mess all the time. He is actually forever sorting himself out… and this is one of the things in the novel that makes it move from words on the pages to smiles on the reader’s face. Yashodhara Lal does manage to capture the insecurity and the hilarity in the life-styles of the professionals who live beyond the toll barrier and in the chaotic vanity of Gurgaon.

Book details:

Title: Sorting out Sid
Author: Yashodhara Lal
Publisher: Harper Collins
ISBN: 978-93-5029-691-2
Price: Rs 250/- (in 2014)




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Arvind Passey
27 January 2014