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Two Sides of a Coin

Bunny Suraiya

Edited by Bhaichand Patel
Penguin/Viking, New Delhi,, 2006, pp. 188, Rs. 325.00

VOLUME XXXI NUMBER 9 September 2007

Wandering through the pages of this book is almost like wandering across the candle-lit, music-soaked lawn at one of Bhaichand Patel’s parties (among the best Delhi parties I have been to and to which Jug and I shamelessly cadge invitations by phoning up Bhaichand and demanding to know why our invite hasn’t reached us yet). The people who have written for the book he has edited are by and large people I have met only at his parties, but because of the frequency of the meetings, I tend to think of them as kind of friends-once-removed and look forward to renewing my conversations with them each time we meet again. In this book, many of those conversations have been captured in print.   The wonderful cover art (I have turned the book every which way to discover the name of the designer but failed to find it) is the proverbial picture that speaks a thousand words and the fact that the title is two distinct statements separated by different coloured fonts offers—perhaps unwittingly—a meaningful clue to the contents.   Chasing The Good Life seems to sum up the male attitude to being single in a vast, heterogeneous Indian metro city. It connotes, among other delights, freedom and the pleasures to be derived from this freedom. Khushwant Singh finds that right on top of his ‘list of the joys of living alone is the freedom to fart without being embarrassed’. Suhel Seth light-heartedly offers a ‘Bachelor’s Guide to Surviving Delhi’, which could more accurately have been titled a guide to seduction. It is entertaining and amusing, but you know it is not serious; you can practically see Suhel chuckling as he writes it. Karan Thapar, long a widower, sidesteps the point of being single by focusing on how to answer the nosy question, ‘Are you married?’ without embarrassing his interlocutor. And Nihal Singh celebrates ‘the freedom to read or sit in silence’ untrammelled by anyone but ‘the butler, of course. But he has learnt to be discreet, almost noiseless…’   All of the male contributors share a breezy, jocular approach to their subject and the contributions have very much of a ‘dashed off’ feel about them. Not that this detracts in any way from their readability—it does not because the passages are charmingly written—but it does seem to divide the book into two thematic sections: the jokey ...

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