Well, yes, that’s how you breeze through life, don’t you? It is attitude and the way you make others perceive you that is sometimes more important than just the boxful of talent that you may be. So it is necessary that you ‘Wake up! Smell the coffee. Look at your pyjamas’… just like Trish did in the novel. Ah! Trish… sounds rather contemporary, doesn’t it? Well, actually the protagonist is Trishna who happily calls herself a BOGO personality because of the extra kilos that she has put on. She is the sort who lies low professionally and loves snorkelling in a ’low-pressure job’ which is why she has selected for herself a team with ‘carefully chosen folks who weren’t overly enthusiastic in the interviews. Stability, she decided, was the quality she was looking for. People needed to be steady and not rushing off with ambitious dreams every couple of years.’
How exciting can this be?
Ah! Trish doesn’t know, but her life actually hops, skips, and jumps into excitement… because soon enough we see her being eased out of her comfortable job. This is when her life gets stranger. All it takes is ‘an anonymous column’, ‘a strange man asking for a rendezvous with her’, an editor called Zee who thinks she is a ‘nobody’, and a dance-form called Zumba! This isn’t all. Trish has her Ma who still refuses ‘to learn the rules’, her Ba who has Alzheimer, her new friend Sahil who has uncanny intuitive visions, and another friend Akanksha who lacks the vision to see what she is tumbling and stumbling into. With so much energy in the characters, the book has no option but to hold your attention.
Let me add here that just as walk-throughs zip you across the entire design plan without really getting bogged into the nitty-gritty of micro details, this book also breezes through moments without a magnifying glass making sure not to make the light fiction reader within you jittery. Look, you really don’t want to get entangled in all the heart-rending details of Alzheimer, do you? Or the psycho-somatic tangles of modern-day professional politics? Nor do you really want an erudite lecture on the necessity of ethics in the world of journalism. The book though does manage to ping a lot of issues that a non-fiction writer might actually end up writing a complete book on. As a reader I loved the meandering course the novel took through even ethics in journalism… and I loved every little dilemma that Trish was faced with every time she sat to complete her anonymous column. One of my favourite parts is when Trish has integrity in journalism defined for her by Zee…
‘Print journalism is serious business,’ Zee almost snarled. ‘There’s a certain thing called journalistic integrity which you would do well to try and imbibe now that you’re calling yourself a journalist.’
‘Integrity?’ Trish was amazed. ‘It’s an anonymous column with a so-called persona manufactured from day one, and you’re deliberately spreading false rumours about who’s writing it.’
This is all so exciting! The book gives readers insights into the murky world of print and online journalism and content writing and… you really must not assume that the book is a text-book on journalism. No, it is a light-weight tale that makes you wonder how fast time flies… because by the time you lift your eyes after finishing a large part of the book, you realise that you’re well past your normal sleep time.
Is it a tale without a dose of romance?
Listen, if you’ve read other books by Yashodhara Lal, you’ll know that she has a soft corner for romance… and ‘There’s Something About You’ is no different. She doesn’t make her characters deface monuments with mushy ‘I love you’ messages nor does she make them run around trees or look at the birds and the bees wistfully. This one has romantic undertones that suit the writer of an anonymous column that tries to solve the personal problems that readers write to newspapers and then wait for answers. Frankly, I have always wondered if the questions that I so often read in such Agony Aunt columns, are real or concocted by the editorial staff… and despite my scepticism, I’ve always tried to find time to read the answers. They are the stuff that sometimes make me think… and sometimes makes me guffaw. It is the questions that sometimes cross the boundaries of sanity and at times it is the answers that astound me.
But coming to romance in the book… well, it remains underfed, quite unlike the protagonist but let me add here that I did not miss its virtual absence.
As the anonymous columnist, Trish finds herself ‘having to wade past and deliberately ignore the more dire problems in search of the frivolous ones which were answerable. All in the name of maintaining the god-damned tone of the god-damned column. But each letter that she ignored went ahead and settled down somewhere in her consciousness.’ I did like the idea of delving deeper into the mind of a columnist like Trisha… and loved reading the way she responded to queries.
I wonder what I will write if some reader wrote to me to ask:
I see so many people writing novels these days and I am sure they are earning a lot. I too want to become a writer. I have always felt that there is a writer inside me but somehow I have not been able to pull him out. Can you give me some guidelines? Please do not give a long reply as I hate reading.
I think I’ll go the Trish way and reply:
Well, well, well
Read more and then you’ll probably reach a stage when you’ll write well. The world appreciates loyal readers just as much as it loves great writers. And anyway, what gave you the idea that there is any escape from reading for writers? They not only read the landscape of life well, they are also able to read every moment that is upside-down or topsy-turvy. They read between the lines and they read even what is unwritten. There is no escape from reading.
By the way, remember to review the books that you read… and be straight-forward and unambiguous in your opinion expressed. Don’t be afraid of what a writer will think if you review harshly… you’ll soon start identifying those writers who read less. Let your reviews reach people… therefore, blog.
So begin by blogging. Blog every day. Blog every night. Blog every time you have time. Blog whenever you catch hold of a new bloggable idea. Blog well… because blogging anyway is writing and will lead you on towards your aim to write.
If you cannot do this, stop dreaming and get on with whatever it is that you are trained to do… an engineer, a doctor, an administrator, a builder… don’t, please don’t load the readers of this world with crappy writing. We don’t need it.
I know this is highly irregular and should not really be a part of a book review… but let me just say that Trish is on my mind and I couldn’t help being a bit like her for a few moments. Right now I can even smell her coffee and smile at her pyjamas.
Title: There’s something about you
Author: Yashodhara Lal
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Price: Rs 175/- (in 2015)
You can buy this book here:
On Amazon: There’s Something About You
12 August 2015