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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!
Women's Web is a vibrant community for Indian women, an authentic space for us
The Good Indian Girl will gulp down 5 pegs of Whiskey in a steel glass at a family gathering. At the end of the evening, she won’t be able to walk straight or find her car keys but to her parents, she only had a glass of beet root juice ‘coz that is what THEY saw. To her parents, she only serves alcohol to play the part of ‘the hostess with the mostess’ but doesn’t drink it 🙂
The good indian girl will stay over at her friends place for the night on the pretext of studing for an exam and then party all night. She will make out with her boyfriend/fiance behind her parents back. She will pretend she has never heard of drinks called Cosmopolitian or vodka or Mohitos as far as her family knows she’s very content with her Roohafza or pepsi at the most :)))
The good indian girl will gulp down i dunno how many pegs of hard drinks which ever is available when she gets the opportunity and tell others this is the first time she takes a drink
The south Indian version of the GIG is one who will
– wear a dupattah over her nightie when stepping out of the house
– sport a bindi even if she is wearing jeans
– take her mom along to buy lingerie (mom has to approve that it is fit to be worn by GIGs from decent families…to my shock have heard such conversations at stores)
– get her bf to drop her at the street corner and walk the rest of the way home
– morph all her male friends’ names on the phone book to seem like female names
– get her bf to invest in a dual sim phone to avoid detection/ suspicion
– strike a deal with another GIG-in-need for any future alibi purposes if required
– get her GIG friend to seek her parents’ permission for an “all girls” night out at another friend’s house
@ UMA I think what you write is not restricted to south indians. These are expectations that exist across the country. I have personally lived through them 🙂
“Oh wearing sari and drinking beer”!!!!, all Indian MCPs expects their women to be in the kitchen or in the bed room only.
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 spokenwith 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
Have you met a Good Indian Girl…of course I have…I am one 😉
For the records, I can
Cook – My child refuses to eat my food saying ‘amma its not good’ but we shall not dwell on that
Sing – I can definitely wake up people with my singing
Dance – I rock in Tambram weddings dancing on ‘aaja na chule meri chunneri sanam’
Take care of my husband – Yep I cook for him and he cooks for me, I wash the vessels and he washes the clothes..its pretty symbiotic you see
Take care of my in laws – and they take care of me 😉
Dress up to the occasion – Of course I do…always in jeans and kurtas…what I even wear bindi at times when the occasion demands 😉
Didnt have a boyfriend in college/school – But I had loads of boys who are still friends..with me AND my husband
Dont smoke/drink – Out of my personal choice though my dad and my husband offered to buy me my first beer!
Dont speak my to elders – either in my family or in the husband’s family
Work – at home and at office
There did I meet the criteria of being a good Indian Girl
Waah, waah! Now you are the modern GIG! Well done, you 🙂
That should read as ‘Dont speak back to my elders’ sorry!
@Lavanya: thank you thank you 🙂
Tradionally a good girl is :
1. One who cooks well
2. Is dressedup all the time with sola shirngar
3. Never ever even dreams of speaking up to inlaws, husband, elders etc.
4. Follows all the rules and regulations of the household to the T, and turns blind eye to what her husband does.
5. Kitchen, Children and Husband is her only life
In modern world:
1. Can train a cook well to cook all the requisite dishes, so that she can balance her career and home
2. Dresses up tradionally whenever the occasion requires
3. Generally does not back answer her in laws, but makes her point.
4. Makes sure her family is comfortable while taking up more responsiblities at work
Let me know what you think
The “condition” called GIG by the authors exists in order to keep the peace and still get your way. In this, the GIG is actually more privileged than the outright liberal woman/rebel/feminist because she gets the best of both worlds — she can claim traditional chivalry and protection (read free car rides and getting outside chores done by male family members) as well as enjoy all the benefits that feminists have fought for (read the best education and career opportunities and freedom to see the world). In a nutshell, I think this book highlights GIG condition for the mask it really is. However much we may detest it, sometimes it’s plain pragmatic approach to don it and get things done.
The Good Indian Girl will not argue with the men of the family( father, brother, husband, whoever) even if she thinks they are nuts – to maintain the peace.
Cleaning, dusting, dish washing, laundry, cooking are all the GIGs work.
She will give her salary to the family in full and then get a dole for her own expenses.
She will eat last after having slaved over the stove to cook an elaborate meal.
She needs to take permission from not only her parents-in law but also her husbands siblings to even visit her own parents/siblings.
Sacrifice. Compromise. “Adjustment”. The Bible of the Good Indian Girl!
Stiffing read… girl stories doesnt have even a little bit of sleaze even though its categorized in fiction. A downgrade from a better book known turf from the same author. This book talks about girls who talk about other girls and so on makes it difficult to track and often ends with a suggestive remark. Not a single story of a girl making it up against odds humm.. did Zubaan miss the fact that it is not feminist at all, any woman who has made her own mark will mock the classification of indian girl let alone good or bad..
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