A tinge of romanticism

A tinge of romanticism

Stupid Cupid, a story from the heart, a story about Adna, a young woman from the north-east trying to find love, or what she believes to be true love, in the rough and tumble world of Delhi.

Adna has been left some property by an aunt, in Delhi, and she sets up a guesthouse — a meeting place for old friends and lovers, a place that asks no questions, makes no demands and tries to extend all courtesy to people whose only desire is to spend some time together. She is thrilled with the success of her plan, and relates the stories of the people who visit, her friends and her eclectic family, to give the reader a glimpse of her life in Delhi. Her life takes surprising turns, as the people she shares it with have their own goals, dreams and experiences.
At first glance, Stupid Cupid seems to be the kind of book that has drawn the scorn and censure of many readers who think that books that deal with the ordinary experiences of peoples’ lives are just fluff. However, Mamang Dai has managed to do much more than that.

The picture she draws of Adna, a young girl from Itanagar, is strangely touching, portraying her vulnerability, not only as a young woman in Delhi but as someone who belongs to a minority community, and is therefore considered different. Adna herself doesn’t pay very much attention to her ethnicity, however, other characters portrayed in the story — such as ‘green eyebrows’ manage to bring out the distinction very well, and neatly encapsulates the feeling of parochialism that overpowers just about every other allegiance that we as Indians choose to make.

Another strong theme that runs through the book is the contrast between urban and rural India, specifically the north-east and Delhi. Landscapes are compared in a vivid manner, as are ideologies, mindsets, and priorities. Delhi has never been so well-described, all its aspects — the partying, the making of a living, the violence and the aggression have all been viewed from disparate angles. The politics in the capital have also been described, albeit in a slightly disconnected fashion.

The story of Mareb, one of Adna’s guests, is touching, in that it brings to the fore the struggle to identify oneself, and the actions people take in order to be ‘happy’. The freedom to live life, as it should be lived, versus the responsibilities and trappings that come with having a family to look after, is described in the most poignant manner, and Asinda, Mareb’s daughter, clutches at your heart, refusing to let go.
Similarly, Adna is in a relationship with a man, a man she never names, a married man. She is confused by what this means, yet her story shows her as mostly content, and describes how people are ready to sacrifice, in order to love and be loved. In contrast, Mareb’s story also touches lightly upon the theme of ‘the love of your life’ and how she has sacrificed to be with the love of her life.
Ambition and urbanisation also play a large role in the book, as Adna describes a stream of her relatives and friends, all arriving in Delhi, looking for a career, a living and a means of making money. For some, like Yoyo, this means helping Adna run The Four Seasons, and for others, like Jia, it is a revelation that encompasses journalism, medicine and a shift in perspective.

The book ends with a suddenness that leaves you gasping, as Amine, Adna’s friend and a strong character throughout the book, is a victim of violence. In this part of the story, drug-running has been brought to life in a way that makes it seem real, and not as a distant problem in a distant land. The casualness of the violence takes your breath away, as does the unexpected-ness of the situation.
All in all, the book is most definitely not fluff. It is humourous, fun and interesting, especially if you like glimpses into others’ lives through the lens of someone who has a life that is not run of the mill. The situation in the north-east has been brought to the readers’ attention, effectively, if not in detail, and will leave readers touched, despite or maybe because of the tinge of romanticism in it.
Dai has managed to write a book that will take you through a series of events, each with its own aura of mystery and romance, and each with a deep meaning. The story makes for a fun and interesting read, worth spending time on, and definitely worth reflecting on.

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