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January 17, 2020

A Piece on The Whole Shebang by Lalita Iyer

I am a partisan by nature, though logically, I try not to be. I know the textbook version of me shouldn’t be prejudiced or discriminatory but the practical side sometimes just a bit get unleashed, to my terrible shame. I am the ‘hometown’ they screech about when they say “Truly I tell you, no prophet is accepted in his hometown.” These are the rare times I quote the Biblical verses and adorn the hat of Catholicism because sometimes it comes in handy. Like the time when I have to pretend to be excited about white wedding gowns or write articles (such as this). Without any malice, I always have a premonition that I am not going to like the works of Indian authors.

Should I apologize for liking something else than the description of the slums, poverty, child abuse in its coarsest form and to top it all, an air of pretense that tend to leave unwarranted halts in the reader’s mind because the author has fallen into the trap of verbiage presuming it will sound smooth? I doubt it.

If I have read 1300+ books, only a handful would be of Indian authors. I need not even use my toes to count them. It is that less. It never clicked to me the way it clicked with Gabriel Garcia Marquez (Spanish), Paulo Coelho (Brazilian), Chinua Achebe (African), Leo Tolstoy (Russian) and obviously, the famous British and American Authors. (This is me trying to convince my conscience that perhaps, I am not biased). I haven’t read many works of Indian authors, by design, unless someone dear recommends it to me with an unavoidable conviction.

Now, here I go rambling about this and that with a few pats around the bush. Before my mind wanders off to unrelated thoughts, let me just beat the core of the bush and come to the point. I read The Whole Shebang: Sticky Bits of Being a Woman by Lalita Iyer. I wasn’t expecting to be impressed because I never “accepted the authors of India”. See, the prophet-accepting-issue-syndrome in live action! 

I loved this book because it is fun, sensible, to the point and with a smooth usage of words. The words just tied upon one another with enough aplomb and it had the right tone, which I found missing in many. This is not the literary kind of work that will compete with the Booker and Pulitzer contenders. Yet, this is an absolutely fun filled and realistic guide for Indian women. For me, Ms. Iyer, in short, is the Indian Zeitgeist for the ladies of the current era. She managed to find the right hole in the society to stick her forefinger and tell us the truth about everything that she figured out. In a way, we knew it but didn’t dare to whisper out.

She covers many of the thoughts that fleets through our mind logically; lay it down for us to read and nod our head vigorously. I appreciate the fact that she was kind enough to wait until she experience all the important phases of her life to write this book. She could have wrote it in her late 20s or mid 30s and guessed the rest. Instead she went through it, imbibed into her being the whole deal and then, wrote it down, thereby, making my role as an aunt easy. I just need to highlight core areas and present this book to my lovely nieces, Naomi and Esther, some day in the future.

I kiss her honesty and thank her for rescuing me from the over-expectations trap set by the society. I don’t have to pretend to love my beauty parlor visits anymore. In fact, my best making out sessions happened between my waxing schedules. Oh yes, all those beauticians are bitches, some sort of mafia. They are mean, make you go vulnerable and sell their facials and manicures. If I faced it first hand and now Ms. Iyer has also clearly written it out there, then this is a universal truth. Let’s create our own parallel mafia and avoid their trap. Go to parlor and do only what you planned to do. None of my lovers ever noticed my blackheads and stopped the kiss midway. So far, only my beauticians have seen it and I don’t intent to kiss them.

Like many others, Ms. Iyer has written about men, motherhood, workplace, friendship, of course sex, in laws etc. Then, what exactly is different here? Let me bring lucidity into the above statement. Ms. Iyer has written about Indian men, Indian version of motherhood, Indian workplace, Indian in laws and of course Indian approach to sex. This isn’t something I or you will get from the foreign writers.

I could go on but no more spoilers now. Read it, love it, gift it to your gang of girls, or just scoff it off. This wasn’t a baptism but me awaiting to be awed by good writing. Thanks to Ms. Lalita Iyer for making me accept the prophet from the neighborhood.


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1 comment

Rajesh Attiri
Rajesh Attiri May 24, 2018 at 3:17 pm

Good review


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