The Bad Boys’ Guide To The Good Indian Girl provides insights into why Indian women do the things they do.
Review by Anjana Basu
According to the authors of The Bad Boys’ Guide To The Good Indian Girl, Annie Zaidi and Smriti Ravindra, the Good Indian Girl, or the GIG, is a ‘condition’ and the word ‘good’ isn’t the opposite of bad. The good Indian girl is one who has managed to find a way around social restrictions by pretending to conform and doing what it takes to survive. Annie Zaidi and Smriti Ravindra identify certain situations and analyse them through illustrative stories that, as they point out in their preface, are not quite fiction. “About 80% is fact. Most stories are drawn from our own experiences, or that of our schoolmates or college friends, or friends of friends,” Zaidi said in a recent interview.
GIGs on the surface of it, are careful not to do anything to cross the boundaries. They will even refrain from drying their panties on outdoor washing lines in case boys see them. Some of them are awkward about asking a boy the way to the bathroom, if they are on a date, even if the situation is desperate. The girl in this particular story prefers to let the boy think that she is uninterested rather than confess her bursting bladder. And there’s the other bathroom story in which a girl causes a ‘buzz’ in the middle of a party by asking her male host the way to the bathroom in his home. To say the word in some cases is a sign of immeasurable boldness.
On the funny flip side is the Singh family with the patriarchal PP at its head and a gaggle of remarkably devious daughters who get up to all kinds of things including selling a thick gold chain in order to buy a thick rope ladder so that they can climb out of their bedrooms and go dating together – girls who date by themselves are in danger of being labelled ‘bad’. (Note by Editor: Remember to check out the contest at the end of this review – the best comment here wins a copy of this book from the publishers, Zubaan)
The list of do’s and don’ts is fairly long and occasionally one wonders how ‘good’ could define any of it without straining. Then there is the matter of the title, which was deliberately adopted so that men would be tempted to read the book too.
Some of the stories are funny, some sad – for example, the one in which a girl tries to understand how a woman committing suicide feels, with an introduction that talks of Sylvia Plath and, rather surprisingly features Hemingway, spelled as ‘Hemmingway’. Another problem is that the same characters crop up, and it becomes a bit difficult to keep track of who is linked to whom and how. There is also a distinct north Indian bias, though the situations are generalized enough for women all over the country to relate to.
There is nothing in this collection that most modern Indian women do not already know. Over time, the awareness of the complexities involved in living in a society that is traditional at one extreme and westernized at the other has grown. Over time, too, a greater sense of freedom has evolved in certain cities as manifested in Delhi’s Slut Walk, or in Bangalore’s notorious ‘pink chaddi’ protest. Research on the book started over seven years ago so there may be reason for a sense of datedness in certain things, though the authors have pointed out that even big cities have conservative, backward people living in them.
Still Good Indian Girls does provide important insights into why many Indian women do the things they do, sometimes even without knowing it.
If you’re planning to purchase The Bad Boys’ Guide To The Good Indian Girl, do consider buying it through this Women’s Web affiliate link at Flipkart. We get a small share of the proceeds – and every little bit will help us continue bringing you the content you like!
And here’s THE GOOD INDIAN GIRL CONTEST!
Tell us something interesting about the Good Indian Girl today. Who is the GIG? Have you met one? Is she funny, annoying, sharp, quiet, bold, what? Are you a GIG? Why/Why not? Tell us your idea of the Good Indian Girl below – in a comment, and the best comment wins a copy of The Bad Boys’ Guide To The Good Indian Girl – from Publishers, Zubaan Books. Contest open until Sat, 10th Sept 2011. Entries restricted to one per person.
Update: Congratulations, Anamika has won this contest with her comment, The Good Indian Girl exists in the minds of the Not So Good Indian Boy. The Sita next door fantasy metamorphises into The Silk at the door and so she is “domesticated,soft spoken with wheatish complexion” and yet ”Can also be liberal enough to down Five beers and Pub hop in skimpy suits”.. In all this , the tragedy is that the Good/Bad Indian girl is a subject created by the male gaze and we are desperately trying to accept the stereotype or break it…Who am I? screams the good and not so good Indian girl. We chose Anamika’s comment for her interesting perspective on what lies behind the idea of the Good Indian Girl.
We’ll be getting in touch with you soon, Anamika, to send you your copy of the book, from Zubaan. A big thank you to everyone who participated – loved reading all the comments!