A synchronised eye roll with fiction
Review of LOVE, whatever that means written by Aditi Mathur Kumar
If reading certain types of fiction makes you overthink, I guess it is time to read certain other types of fiction. I mean, a genre of fiction where everything is ‘all honey and whiskey and chocolate’ or ‘totally hot’… where girls are forever blushing or ‘checking him out’… because, after all ‘my normal can be your weird. We all have our own idea of that. There’s no rule-book’. Or, as Ruchi, Tina’s friend in the book, says, ‘Every couple makes their own rules, decide on their own normal.’
And who is Tina? Well, she is the protagonist in Aditi Mathur Kumar’s Love, whatever that means, and is working with NewsBeat, a television channel and who is ‘officially confused’ because Tanya, another friend declares that Tina is forever ‘over-thinking, and over-analysing everything, over-the-top.’ Believe me, as I read through the pages, my first thought was, ‘Will this book really help me understand the way the youngsters think these days… or the way they behave?’ The truth is that the book did help me unravel a mystery here and some confusion there. I felt young as I held the book in my hands and read. I almost started a synchronised eye roll with this genre of fiction and loved every minute of it. No, I wasn’t tiring myself out trying to find hidden clues to the mysteries of social behaviour or going berserk looking between the lines for philosophical insights… and yet, I was stumbling upon one fresh expression after another in what calls itself an ‘easy read’ somewhere.
The story-line is simple enough. A girl, who isn’t necessarily desperately searching for a boy, happens to quite literally stumble upon one and they keep stumbling upon the other until they admit that… well, that they’re in love with each other. There is a villain as well and Ranvir, who for some strange reason reminded me at times of another anchor we all know and who is always talking about the nation wanting to know the real truth, isn’t aware that the world thinks of him as anything other than a hero. With this kind of potion poured in the story-line, things are bound to get hilarious at times… and serious as well, because, after all, the villain is going to remain there like a sore thumb until he is eliminated!
Eliminated? Oh my God! Is there a murder in a simple romance? I’m so sorry for causing this shock… but no there is no murder in this book. However, when a villain is kicked out of a job and subsequently, from Tina’s life, the incident does deserve being called ‘elimination’… right? We, the readers, are told the story of the way Ranvir gets his punches and then his elimination with all the sauces and dips that Aditi could muster and some of this came with interesting insights of the author on the way PR functions. Newsbeat, writes Aditi has ‘been in business for over a decade, we are one of the oldest English News Channels in the country. Ranvir is the star of the channel because WE made him that star. It’s all PR imagery. It’s all fluff. And his personal brand of drama? Well, the news can do without it. There is the law of diminishing utility. People will tire of him because his attitude cannot be sustained on a long term,’ she finishes with a flourish and I must say, I am wowed.’ Interesting, I’d say… but listen, the book isn’t about analysing PR in India. It is about Tina and Virat. Virat, I must mention here, is from the Indian Army and none of the fauji references sound fake in the book. I guess this is because Aditi herself is the wife of an officer in the OGs and I did love the way she has played with the alphabet of radio telephony.
‘He’s pretty old-school too,’ Milind adds. He is the reason I was just yelling Whiskey Tango Foxtrot for fifteen days around our first IMA Ball.’
‘Whiskey Tang What?’ I ask.
‘No, Ma’am, no. Whiskey and tang just don’t go together. Trust me, I’ve tried!’ Milind says laughing.
Loved the humour that kept me smiling all through the book… and all the references to the army are penned with a certain truth of conviction that not many away from an army background will be capable of writing.
Even the romantic interludes are subtle and life-like. For instance, the moment when Tina admits to being in love is worth a mention here:
‘Where are you?’ he asks.
‘Standing at the Dooms Beats balcony,’ I say and he chuckles some more. ‘Where are you?’ I ask.
‘On the snow covered porch outside my room,’ he tells me.
‘Where are we?’ I ask, cautiously.
Surprisingly, contrary to my expectations, none of the characters in the book appeared to be forced, contrived, and shallow. For instance, we have Tina’s friends too project real-life characters and even she is never projected as someone unreal and just a cosmetic presence. She has a will of her own and strong enough to admit that she isn’t classy and is shown to splutter lemonade on herself and on the table and is, therefore, not strutting up and down the pages in the right dresses and the right heels. In my opinion, the book actually goes beyond being just a teeny-weeny itsy-bitsy romance meant for only for teenagers and the mindless romance reader. Even the one time that Tina dons her ‘just-right-for-first-date heels are apparently not right for sudden twisting and turning in the middle of the road, so my right heel bends and I stumble, falling on – yes, of course, ON Virat’.
The book definitely has an easy flow avoiding all the dark chasms of deep introspection and doesn’t even attempt to go near to pick up socio-economic perceptions of a romance in the twenty-first century, whatever that means. This isn’t a book that spits out psychographic statistics from a Neilson survey trying to make romance sound like a power-point presentation for intellectuals… and yet, the reader gets quite a few interesting insights into the way things happen when people are young. So let me just say that the book will do a lot of good even to the older readers who think they have stopped understanding the new generation, their language, and their concerns. A synchronised eye roll with this kind of fiction is refreshing and definitely an ice-breaker.
Title: LOVE, whatever that means
Author: Aditi Mathur Kumar
Price: Rs 175/- (in 2016)
Buy this book here:
Amazon: Love, Whatever that Means
Flipkart: Love, Whatever that Means……
25 July 2016