Book review: Paradise Towers by Shweta Bachchan-Nanda

Not so towering

We’ve had a rash of celebs turning authors, with Twinkle Khanna in the vanguard and others like Rishi Kapoor, Karan Johar, Soha Ali Khan and now, Shweta Bachchan-Nanda following in her wake. Let me break this to readers gently: while all the others mentioned here have acquitted themselves very well, with memoirs that entertain, move, as well as inform, Bachchan-Nanda had better keep her day job, whatever that might be.

Paradise Towers is a slim, easily readable piece of fiction that tells the conjoined tales of a select lot of residents of Paradise Towers (PT), a respectable if not exactly posh old apartment block in Mumbai. There’s the irascible Mrs Mody, her constant accessory a pair of binoculars slung around her neck, all the better to keep a sharp eye on the doings in the block. There’s Mrs Kapoor, a rather flighty woman who is fending off insistent phone calls from her emotionally dependant mother. There’s Mrs Kapoor’s best friend, the lovely Mrs Aly Khan with her brood of five. There’s Mrs Roy, whose stiff upright exterior hides a warm heart but under many layers of Bengali starch. There are the Ranganekars who keep to themselves and don’t mix much.

There are the newly arrived Singhs. Then there are the beauteous Laila Aly Khan, the sweet Shaana Roy and her smitten swain Sam Singh, the Kapoors’ manservant Dinesh and the object of his affections, Lata.

The author goes into minute, even trite details about the apartment block, its watchman, its liftman, and the small set of residents she has chosen to narrow her focus on; while the reader gets a very clear picture of the place, the people remain mere names with a clichéd collection of idiosyncrasies attached to them. And while on the names, Bachchan-Nanda’s particular conceit of never giving us the first names of Mrs Kapoor, Mrs Roy and the rest, doesn’t quite work because none of them have any memorable quirk that keeps them in the reader’s mind.

It’s everyday routine at Paradise Towers till one of the residents suddenly cops it. To all intents and purposes, it looks like death due to old age, but then the cops arrive, alerted by a suspicious cook, and find that it’s murder for gain, after all. That case is quickly solved and holds no surprises for the reader.

Then life gets back to even keel at PT, small romances bloom and are nipped in the bud, one of them leading to an elopement. After which, another sensational happening happens.

The police have been on the lookout for the kingpins of a fake currency racket in the city for a while, and when the catch is finally made, it’s from one of the apartments at PT.

The denouement is a neat one but the fact that the residents, as well as the watchman, liftman, etc, continue to treat one of the accused with respect is a bit of a far stretch, people being people with petty prejudices.

And that pretty much is what Paradise Towers is all about. The story is a banal one with absolutely no edge to it, and would have benefited from a wry telling of the PT tales. Instead, it’s a pedantic tale told in a pedantic language. Some careless editing adds nothing to the story; quite a few grammar and syntax errors and oddly constructed sentences pop up through the book.  

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Book review: Paradise Towers by Shweta Bachchan-Nanda

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