Friday, November 24, 2006

Kavita Daswani

Perhaps I was expecting too much from a desi chicklit. Or perhaps the recent flood of works from South Asia, most of which are almost sans stereotype had given me false hopes. Whatever the reason, Kavita Daswani’s Salam Paris woke me with a rude shock. However must say that once one was reconciled with Mills and Boon romance meets traditional South Asia while traipsing around the globe, it was an entertaining read. In other words there is amusement aplenty when beautiful chaste woman hits the spotlight of the Paris fashion world and romances wealthy handsome man of noble lineage all the while keeping her traditional roots and chastity intact!!!

Conversation between man and woman is pathetic to say the least. Some gems.

She : It is easy for you to preach on about family blessings. You have always had them. No matter what you decided to do, you would always have them. Go to law school, go to med school, stay home and become an auto mechanic. (Knowing South Asian parents, I doubt the stay at home and auto mechanic part very much but we'll let that go for now). Your parents would never have cursed you with Allah's wrath because you are a man. You were meant to go out and conquer the world. But if a girl tries to do it, suddenly there are accusations of betrayal and threats of being disowned. I couldn't even walk out of my apartment without being followed by Nana. But you? You could study in America, work in London, move to Paris, whatever you wanted. Why? Because you are a boy and I am not?

He: If you had told your grandfather that you wanted to get a proper education, take on a decent career, he might have eventually agreed. (Yeah right! girl just had to say Granpappy Granpappy I need a propah education, and right then he would be filling out forms for Harvard) Even I would have fought for that on your behalf. But what is this? This taking off your clothes for the world to see? This sleeping with a strange white man who plays music for a living? What kind of behavior is that for a decent girl?

And before anyone gets ideas about why she was taking her clothes off here is the secret: she is a model in Paris. A fashion supermodel at that. And how does Ms. Supermodel with rock star boyfriend in tow stay nicely chaste. Answer : Supermodel's boyfriend (never realized why he was called strange, was it for being white or because he made a career out of music!!) is a DECOY.

Now to the story. The plot revolves around Tanaya, a girl raised in a conservative Muslim family in Bombay. Tanaya is an exquisite beauty (but of course, which plain Jane could ever aspire to do anything!) and dreams for the world of Paris; a world that comes alive for her in Audrey Hepburn’s film Sabrina. Her chance arrives in the form of an arranged match to a highly prized catch. Tanaya reaches Paris but once she’s there she avoids the arranged mate, tall dark handsome Tariq. With a little help from lady luck she becomes a top fashion model, hobnobs with the glitterati and zips around the world. However her roots and her tradition beckon (as usual) and when she falls in love with the same man she was betrothed to, Tanaya has to make a tough choice between her life of glamour and her life of tradition. No prizes for guessing, since this is the world where handsome princes and their beautiful princesses ride their way into sunset. Always.

(All Italic emphasis: my comments)


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