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Recreating the Eighties

N. Kamala

By Anuja Chauhan
HarperCollins Publishers, India, 2013, pp. 388, Rs. 350.00


Marriage is a national obsession in India and any work of fiction that deals with this subject is normally a big hit! You only have to think of cinematic adaptations of Jane Austen’s 19th century England set in modern 20th or 21st c India or elsewhere, then you know what I mean. If you dress it up in a romantic manner with a ‘love marriage’, but where the parameters of reference remains the same with progressive parents and no cultural clashes of religion, caste or class, then the end product is even more delectable! Anuja Chauhan’s first two novels dealt with modern full-blooded romance with cricket and politics as their background. She has stayed on in similar familiar ground in her third book which is set in the world of print and audio visual journalism, but set interestingly in 1986! A time when TV began to change and when investigative journalism was coming of age. References are but thinly veiled (the obvious Dolly Thakore and the less obvious Nari Hira) but there is a serious attempt to recreate the ambience of those days!   The story revolves around a newbie TV newsreader at Desh Darpan, Debjani Thakur, and Dylan Singh Shekhawat, hot journalist at India Post. Debjani is the fourth of Judge Saab’s alphabetically named five daughters, a sucker for underdogs, fresh and idealistic, whose first encounter of the romantic kind with the hero in true romance fashion is full of clash and misunderstanding. Dylan who has ghost written a piece for his boss on DD and Debjani’s first reading of the news which is devastatingly derogatory, finds that his object of ridicule on paper is all sugar and spice and everything nice in reality. But the hero is now a cynic regarding relationships though he was the quintessential romantic hero having been brought up to believe that ‘girls were pure, delicate creatures who needed to be cherished, respected, and protected’ but who now thinks that the ‘only kind of protecting came from the chemist…’ (p.30) Debjani and Dylan run into each other at various moments even as she learns to correctly pronounce ‘perestroika’ and ‘Thiru-vananathapuram’—both alien words to the North Indian beauty, and Dylan pushes his investigation into the anti-Sikh riot instigators and the victims of the same. This last seems so apt at present as we witness court cases against alleged rabble rousers and their ...

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