Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Butterfly at her Best

I wrote this review for the Sunday supplement.

Tender Hooks
By: Moni Mohsin
Pages: 250
Publisher: Random House India
Price: Rs 199

The first few lines of the book made me crack up: “You know Jonkers, na? Oho baba, what's happened to you? Everything you are forgetting. I think so you must have got sterile dementia. Like poor old Uncle Cock-up.”
Still chuckling I start reading again to giggle at few more gems and malapropisms: “I put on green contacts (blue is so past it) and my new Tom Fort red lipstick and now I am just looking like Angelina Jolly. But like her healthier, just slightly older sister. I know I shouldn't do my own praise, but facts are facts, no? Pity Janoo isn't Brad Pitts. But you can't have everything in life as Mother Rosario used to say at my convent school.”
Full of wit, wickedness and malapropisms, Tender Hooks continues from where The Diary of Social Butterfly left off. You get a hint of what is there in the chapter from the introductory lines which are in fact the newspaper headlines – from terror attack, to surveys about love marriages - covering the Pakistani society and polity.
In the sequel, the Butterfly has a dilemma – to find a bride for plain, bald, divorced and awkward, Jonkers, her cousin. Butterfly isn't excited at the prospect, but left with no choice she has to accompany Mummy and Aunty Pussy to weddings, dinners and teas at prospective in-laws families.
In between, these meetings, she also has her kittys and GTs (oho baba, get togethers) with the “rich, sophisty Lahoris”, and shopping for diamonds and badgering Janoo (her husband) to holiday in London or move to Dubai permanently.
Butterfly is the “socialist” type, while Janoo is the anti-socialist, zinda lash. Janoo, serious, intellectual, landed and Oxen (Oxford educated!) is the perfect counterfoil to scatter-brained, flitty and gossipy Butterfly.
Although, Janoo is the “thinker”, it's the Butterfly's seemingly, “ignorant” remarks that strike as sensible. For instance, when bomb are bursting everywhere in Lahore and Butterfly wants to move to Dubai, Janoo wonders what will she do there. The Butterfly answers, “Live.” Her encounter with the “beardo fundo” also shows that she is no weakling.
Of course, there are times when she thinks of her own fayda and moving up in the society and hence tries to push Jonkers into marrying powder pasha's dwarf daughter (she can go and stay in their London flat if the alliance is materialised). She tries to dissuade Jonkers from marrying Sana Raheem, who is the manger of a travel agency. The marriage won't get them any benefits. But in the end, Butterfly is convinced that Jonkers has made a right choice with Sana – just like Janoo and her – and hosts his wedding at their kothi.
The book ends with Butterfly relying on her “sick sense” to predict that Jonkers, Sana, Aunty Pussy and Uncle Cock-up will live happily. There might be a few fights first between bossy Aunty Pussy and not taking – it quietly type Sana, but they'll get along fine.

The Diary of Social Butterfly is a compilation of articles written by Moni Mohsin for Pakistani daily, Friday Times. The protagonist takes a detailed and wicked look at Pakistani high society – khandani Lahoris and paindu pastries.

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