Sunday Herald Books: Tackling ageism

Sunday Herald Books: Tackling ageism

Wajid is to be credited for her effort at breaking other stereotypes too, in this novel.

The title of the book seems to touch upon the very real anxiety of turning 30, which readers who are nearing, or have crossed that tricky number, might confess to feeling. But finally the story turns out to be a paean to getting older and wiser as the protagonist, Priya Kumar, and her ‘worried-about-turning-thirty’ friends and colleagues, discover.

Andaleeb attempts a different kind of tale, as she makes her way into the world of chick-lit with this entertaining tale of the woes of being single, with the dreaded age 30 lurking around the corner, threatening to turn one into Heaven knows what.

Office politics, gossip, romances (frowned upon by HR), breakups, the tendency towards practising ageism, dealing with a tough boss, not to mention cheeky, shirking interns sniggering behind their supervisor, all make their way into this tale. Andaleeb, with her competent storytelling skills, brings alive the characters in her attempt to make them believable, as also the many office disasters that have Priya tearing out her hair in utter disbelief.

The language employed is casual with the use of words like “dude”, as also the constant bandying about of four-letter words, in this first-person story. Underlying everything is Wajid’s sense of humour, which makes one want to continue reading and finishing the book in one go. Priya, dropping her phone into a plate of rasam and sambar and confessing, “I’m not a klutz, but I just have these momentary lapses when something or the other goes wrong...” makes for a very enjoyable character.

The whiff and pangs of romance are felt in the early pages of the book, with Priya’s dishy neighbour finding his way into her life and into her heart, before she can even count to 30. But as the path of true love never runs smooth, more so in a book, the reader will have to hold her horses, for all the misunderstandings to be sorted out, for the all’s-well that-ends-well grand finale. Andaleeb adds to the mystique of this romance with the hero, Ajay, being the father of five-year-old Anya, which he makes no secret of. Occasional bouts of philosophising wend their way into the story as Priya ruminates on a colleague: “Namrata’s life is so messy and complicated, compared to some of us who bitch about our lives, just because EMIs take away more than half our salaries.”

 Priya’s roommate, Farida, is a good foil to her, playing the role of friend, philosopher and guide, often abrogating the role, as she tells Priya, “Come on! I literally set this up for you,” after the latter’s first evening out with Ajay. In the characterisation of Farida and her very liberal views on life, the author seems to be attempting to shake off a stereotyping that several of us might be guilty of indulging in.

Priya offers an introduction to Farida’s parents, Mr and Mrs Khalil, as avant-garde artists: “Farida hated parent-teacher meetings in school because everyone would stare at her parents. They wouldn’t really wear absurd clothes but they were definitely not anything my mother would have in her wardrobe, especially the colour choices.”

 The problems of dealing with subordinates and finding the balance, and Priya’s vulnerability are effectively brought out when she thinks, “It’s my mistake entirely. When they joined, I should have been more aloof and boss-like, but this inane need I have to be liked by everyone will prove to be my undoing.” The fallout of an extra-marital affair at an office party adds plentifully to the unfolding dramatic situations, with never a dull moment for all around and the reader. Wajid is to be credited for her effort at breaking other stereotypes too, in this novel. In an almost-botched office romance, the man involved tries hard to overcome his prejudiced notion that a woman has to be older than a man for a romance to be a success.

 The one bit of the story that hits a jarring note is the part involving Reshma Phuppu and her husband. Perhaps Wajid needed the action to tie up the loose ends but something appears to have been missed out in the ensuing melodrama, which seems a little less believable, as are the two characters involved. The sorting out of the so-called love triangle also seems a little too pat.

But in her self-confessed attempt at a new kind of story, Andaleeb has shown that she has a natural flair for being a raconteur. This is a book that can be finished in one sitting, and the readers will not be disappointed, as they are taken through the many fears of turning 30 and the dilemmas that ultimately resolve themselves.