Those Pricey Thakur Girls is Anuja Chauhan’s third popular fiction novel. However, I hadn’t read any of Chauhan’s books before this. In fact, I’m not very swift to pick up Indian popular fiction especially because most of them turn out to be quite bullshit, frankly. Anyhow, two of my closest friends from college have read the book and one of them sent this one as a (two-months-advance) birthday gift, and both of them were raving about how amazing the story is so I decided to try it.
Part unwillingness, part sheer apathy for how Indian popfic writers pen down stories made the reading process complicated and LONG! But I dived into Judge Laxmi Narayan Thakur’s (LN to his wife; BJ/Bauji to his daughers) life. LN is an eccentric, suspicious, kot piece playing father to five girls who he names alphabetically. People might find this erratic but my OCD-laden heart finds it adorable and proper. In fact, this detail reminded of a story by Jean McDevitt I’d read as a child – it was about the Apple family and how Mr. Apple tries to find innovative names that compliment the surname, Apple (Mackientosh Apple, Jonathan Apple, Delicious Apple and lastly, Ann Apple). But I digress!
LN’s girls – A for Anjini is married to A for Anant and cannot have children; B for Binodini is married to Vickyji (LN believes this mishap of un-alphabetical disaster has caused her to be wayward and selfish) and has filed a case in court for her share in property; C for Chandralekha has eloped with an Estonian and LN hasn’t spoken to her since; E for Eshwari is in school, and still in tumult about how to express ‘hormonal feelings’ for guys; D for Debjani/Dabbu, our protagonist, is his favourite daughter and reads the news for DeshDarpan and falls for Dylan Singh Shekhawat – our hero: hardworking, honest, handsome journalist.
The story is set in the early 1980s: DeshDarpan is Doordarshan (obviously), the then-Prime Minister’s (Indira Gandhi) assassination is mentioned, the Sikh riots is the spine of the story. Dylan is chasing Motla (for every Indian story must have a villain) who is accountable for the Sikh riots and is completely smitten by Dabbu’s confidence, her moleonchin and her “love for losers”. The story starts with Dabbu beginning as a newsreader but she grows (?!) throughout the novel into a confident twenty-three old.
The cat on the cover, as my friend puts it, has a role in the story (and the cute little tortoiseshell really does!). The novel is about Delhi sheher in the eighties but there is some very obvious but forgiveable anachronism. The story has Hindi phrases, dialogues and one-liners that tickle the funny bone but sometimes are distracting too. However, it is a 400-page novel and seems to go on and on. It could have been better edited perhaps? Towards the end, it seemed like I was inside a Bollywood movie: police on trains, overpowering politician acting like an ass, hero in the hawalat (YES, SPOILERS!), heroine in copious tears, and then, the quintessential deux ex machina end.
Those Pricey Thakur Girls is hilarious in parts but only a one time read.