A whole new spin on the old cliché: “Hell hath no fury like a
Mira’s tale does not have the smoothest of starts, and the
reader is more than a little startled to be set down bang in the middle of what
appears to be a meltdown being suffered by the eponymous heroine. However, once
that hurdle is crossed, the story is underpinned with all of Antony’s trademark
wit-in-sardonic-vein, her distinctive weltanschauung.
Mira is a She in desperate search of her He. She meets him in
Samundar Shah, a.k.a Sam… arguably the only hero in contemporary fiction to be
referenced to the popular 1950s Malayalam film star Prem Nazir! Mira thinks she
has found her man for all seasons and all reasons; he, poor sap, doesn’t know
he is getting the cliché: the oversexed virgin.
So, they have a one-night stand, which she blows up almost
immediately into Technicolor romance. Suddenly Sam is the point and everything
else, besides the point. When he walks off into the squalid sunset without
looking back, it becomes a Technicolor heartbreak. The heartbreak is
heartbreakingly real, no pretence of wit here.
Fantasies of destruction and revenge follow and, after shedding
exactly 4,361 tears over Sam, Mira decides to go wreak revenge, vendetta on a
shoestring budget. Only to barge into a set piece consisting of her
hero-turned-villain’s improbably named wife Delta, his mother Leela-ben and his
in-laws, the Lalans. What follows is a muddle of faked pregnancies, hysteria
controlled and let loose, incidents funny, sad and all too true-to-type. The
story never becomes maudlin; cynical yes, but never maudlin.
Antony has the reader chortling (a given, in any work by her)
with priceless gems like What Mira Told the Landlady’s Husband. The spin on
Mira’s real name is another chuckle-inducer. And the emergence of most unlikely
man-in- the-wings, right at the end of the novel, is hilarious. Antony has Mira
muse on the fact that scorned women liven up literature but are such a nuisance
in real life. Be the latter as it may, Mira in print is anything but a nuisance
to the reader.
The story does flag a bit in parts, weighed down by chunks of
unrestrained introspection. The tone seems to deliberately lack depth; the
reader is never really allowed to feel too much for any of the characters. The
prose, though, flows lush but tight, descriptive and restrained. If that sounds
contrary, Antony, now author of five books, has always been something of a
contrarian in the way she serves up commonplace emotions and situations in
anything but commonplace prose.
While most women readers may well empathise with Mira, her
running-to-bizarre wackiness may put them off as well. When Mira is subjected
to a girl-seeing session, her prospective in-laws ask: “Hope you are not one of
those women who will insist on working after the baby?” To which Mira replies,
optimistically, “Statistically, one in 100 women dies during delivery.” And
that’s Mira for you. Chick lit? Well, if this is chick lit, it’s like no other
chick lit! As for the cover, it’s a real humdinger.
Labels: Book Review, Shinie Antony, When Mira Went Forth And Multiplied