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Diksha Basu’s book The Windfall is a funny look at neighbourly competition in the new urban India, a fast paced read for a weekend.
I had been seeing this book pop up on my Instagram and Twitter feed every now and then and had made a random note of it somewhere on my TBR list.
Then, I landed at the bookstore to pick up a few books that had been out of stock, when my trusted bookseller pulled out a book from the large display table on his right and placed it in front me. “Read this,” he said, his gaze pointing at the copy of The Windfall by Diksha Basu. His recommendations having always been spot on, I couldn’t refuse and returned with a book that was to soon become one of my favourites.
The Windfall begins by introducing Anil Kumar Jha who has worked hard and is now ready to live well. Having sold off his website for what he thinks was an unbelievable price of twenty million dollars, he and his family are moving out of their modest flat in East Delhi that had been their home for thirty years, into a spacious bungalow in upscale Gurgaon. But, his wife Bindu is heartbroken at the prospect of leaving their neighbours and doesn’t want to wear designer sarees or understand interior decoration. Meanwhile, their son Rupak is failing business school in the US and secretly dating an American girl. He has still not summoned the courage to talk to his parents about either of these developments.
Once installed in their mansion, the Jhas are soon drawn into a feverish game of one-upmanship with their new neighbours – the Chopras. When an imitation Sistine Chapel is pitted against a crystal-encrusted sofa imported from Japan, and each couple seeks to outdo the other with increasingly lavish displays of wealth, Bindu begins to wonder where it will all end.
Diksha Basu presents a hilarious tale of a middle-class Delhi family struggling to fit into the mould that comes with their new-found wealth. Their discovery of a lifestyle they have never known, one which Mr. Jha is determined to embrace while Mrs. Jha is fearful of accepting, highlights the insecurity that plagues us all.
Basu’s prose is simple and easy going, much like the family whose story she tells. She infuses a sense of humour in her writing which makes one laugh out loud at every page. The novel is paced exceptionally well, discouraging the reader of any urge to pause. She weaves a captivating narrative of the Jhas’ new lifestyle in Gurgaon entangled with the confusion Rupak experiences in the face of his parents’ change in mindset.
The Chopras play their part as supporting characters to perfection. Dinesh Chopra, the new neighbour, is as nosey as they come. Watching every move the Jhas make, he is determined to prove he is better and richer.
I particularly loved the nuanced character of Mrs. Ray, the 37 year old widow who is Mrs. Jha’s best friend. Basu loops her story in the narrative effortlessly, and draws attention to the meaningless stigmas associated with being a young widow in India.
The Windfall is a tug of war between values and aspirations. As Michael Mandelbaum said, “The windfall of great riches can, if mismanaged, make things worse, not better, for the recipients.” This book simply shows the reader how, albeit with dollops of humour.
If you’re looking for a better-than-good book that will spread warmth in your heart after reading it, I recommend this one. I guarantee it will make you laugh so much that you will cry.
Published here earlier.
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Top image via Pixabay and book cover via Amazon