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Want a quick, light-hearted read with a strong woman protagonist? Great Textpectations by Ruchi Vadehra is the book to pick up.
How many of you (if you belong to that generation) remember the time when mobile phone service providers first added the text feature? When each message character was worth its weight in gold, and we were forced to develop an entire lingo meant specifically for messaging in order to have a text conversation without emptying one’s bank balance?
Today, nearly two decades later, however, texting is a much more evolved form of speech – finger speech, to be precise. Now, we can write the way we talk, especially when characters are not weighed by their monetary value. No wonder, then, that people are having entire relationships via texting. Whether it is a couple in love, living a few kilometres from each other, or two people sitting on different continents running a business together, texting is the new means of interaction, of getting to know each other and thereby establishing a deep, albeit largely virtual, relationship.
Without the necessity of face-to-face interaction that most expect to be the framework of relationship building, new rules are being established, as the protagonist of this novel discovers.
Amaya Kapoor is a Delhi-based intellectually inclined thirty-five-year-old, single, financially independent, and sexually liberated woman, who wants to open a ‘boutique bookstore’ and live life on her own terms — single and content. She comes across Rohan while playing Scrabble online, and they soon get chatting, enjoying each other’s company without the usual baggage face-to-face interactions bring. Their text conversations are fun, flirty, and become instrumental in connecting their worlds. Amaya and Rohan become an integral part of each other’s lives even before they realize it and so, eventually, decide to meet. What happens to their virtual relationship when they finally do meet in the real world?
Great Textpectations has a handful of interesting characters at its centre. One is, of course, the lead protagonist – Amaya Kapoor – who is an ambitious, self-driven, no-nonsense woman. She has a vision for her business and pulls all the stops to ensure its success. When it comes to her personal life, she is surrounded by a close-knit circle of like-minded friends, but her girl-gang still features at the top.
The other character is the city where the story is based – Delhi – which plays a key role. Vadehra spotlights the city as the hub of entertainment and roaring nightlife within its hotspots, such as Hauz Khas Village, the newer, upcoming Meherchand Market, and the culturally inclined India Habitat Centre.
In addition, there is an entire cast of sundry characters, most of whom are shown as Page 3 celebrities, dressed and accessorized in designer brands, who are regularly clicked by the shutterbugs at their usual haunts. Their lifestyle choices may leave much to be desired, yet they make for quite an eclectic set.
There is, of course, Rohan Kashyap, and Amaya’s relationship with Rohan begins like one with an irritating acquaintance. She, who appreciates the comfort of silence during her online escapades, initially finds Rohan a nuisance. Then owing largely to Rohan’s persistence, they gradually start becoming friendly, sharing personal details every now and then, and trusting each other’s insight for their professional decisions. Over time, their exchanges start getting flirty and Amaya begins to look forward to their online chats and texts.
Debut novelist Ruchi Vadehra peels away the layers to her lead characters almost entirely through text conversations. It is interesting to note how a long-distance dialogue is able to reveal so much about their personalities. That it can create so much misunderstanding, as is inherent with this mode of expressionless communication, is also portrayed well in the story.
At the same time, I feel the narrative lacks a flow or continuity, especially where it breaks from the conversation between Amaya and Rohan and moves on to the next scene. This transition appears a little too abrupt and breaks the reader’s chain of thought and visualisation.
What entertains you most, however, are the text conversations in the book. Fun, flirty, crisp, and blunt – these are the highlight of the novel. They bring energy into the narrative and keep the reader thoroughly entertained. As the name suggests, Great Textpectations is based literally and entirely on the premise of text expectations, and it is a treat to read. And the fact that one can still fall hopelessly in love in the time of text, makes this a read for all ages.
So, if the hot weather is getting too much to handle, pick up this easy breezy read this summer to keep you cool, or for a rainy day inside in case monsoons have already reached where you live.
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Ashima has been in love with the written word for as long as she can
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