Cliques galore

Cliques galore

After her first book, The TamBrahm Bride, Kausalya Saptharishi takes a look at single motherhood, and the quirks and challenges of trying to befriend members of a clique in her novel Mom and the City.

Single working mother Iravati Krishna, senior editor of World Ink, decides to enrol her young son Abhi in Bumblebees, an expensive and posh playschool in Lutyens’ Delhi. At first glance, Bumblebees looks “straight out of a TV soap commercial” with freshly cut lawns and neatly turned out parents. And the mothers are, Ira discovers, very cliquey. They are temperamental, fashionable, and judgmental, and Ira finds herself rather uncomfortable, as she tries to befriend the women. In a struggle with herself over telling them the truth about her marriage or not telling them anything at all, Ira blurts out a lie. Which, in turn, leads to complications further down the road. To give credence to her lie, Ira seeks the help of Vasu, an old friend.

Saptharishi’s descriptions of Bumblebees and the mothers of the group is realistic. A clique is a clique — on the surface, the mothers are perfect fashionistas, but there are dark secrets behind their makeup and hairstyles. Ira is an outsider, a woman more practical than flighty, yet the clique manages to unsettle her enough to want to fit in. As far as she’s comfortable with, at least. The description of a certain birthday party of Abhi’s classmate is interesting. Under the amusing display of wealth and fashion, there seems to be an undercurrent of tension and lack of confidence that is very obvious.

Avantika Sen of the “Avantika Sen Collection” is convincingly obnoxious and very snooty. Riya is a gushy sidekick who sees nothing but perfection in whatever Avantika says or does. There’s also Nikki, Carol and Hutoxi, each well defined and with a personality of their own. Vasu is charismatic, Abhi is a lively little kid full of ideas and a cheery approach to life. Characterisation in Mom in the City is, overall, well done. Ira’s friend Priya is a strong character as well, and her friendship with Ira is convincingly portrayed.

The plot is well paced, with surprises and unexpected moments. Ira’s struggle to convince bestselling author Svetlana to remain with World Ink is humorous, although her exasperation is obvious. There is, however, a problem with predictability — while the little incidents in the book make up the whole, the overall storyline is familiar and fraught with overdone clichés. Characterisation is well done, granted, but the ‘clique’ in Mom and the City is still a predictable clique. There is a leader with an attitude and a faithful sidekick, and the other members of the group turn out to be not as bad as they seem to be in the beginning.

Vasu’s re-entry into Ira’s life gives her a chance to seize an opportunity she missed before. And despite her confusion over his arrival, Ira manages to convince him to play the role of Abhi’s father for a school function — and the rest takes care of itself.
All in all, Mom in the City is a light read that takes a look at missed prospects and second chances, and the fact that all is not lost. Ira, despite her struggle with her marriage and her discomfort with the clique, still has hope. And perhaps that is the underlying theme of the book.