…and a chilling murder

brought together in a potent cocktail."

The Great Indian Love Story:Penguin Books India, 188 pages, Rs199.

The story revolves around Riya, who finds herself unemployed in recession-seized US and is forced to come back to India. Living in Delhi, bored, not finding much else to do other than visit the gym and the spa, she runs into Serena, who has also returned from the US. They bond over their accents, and Serena takes it upon herself to show Riya the “good-time" India. So, it’s a whirl of parties where heaps of cocaine are served on silver trays by quiet waiters and credit cards and Rs1,000 notes are clearly not commercial currency, but equipment to cut lines of powder and snort them. Of course, it’s high-society debauched Delhi, so everyone’s sleeping with everyone else (remember, the press release started with sex) and most people are too high to notice who they are with or what they are doing.

Each chapter is narrated by the protagonist of that episode and as the story progresses, many voices and narrators appear. So, there’s Serena’s mother Parmeet, the colourful and amorous Punjabi woman who tried very hard but could not fit into her former bureaucrat husband’s world of official parties in which women wore pastel chiffons and pearls. So she starts hooking up with younger men. Her former husband, now dead, also gets to tell his side of the story through his typewritten journal pages. As does her current husband and the domestic help.

And so we move on, from one vapid, empty, under-motivated character to another. Other than the interiors of swanky farmhouses in the outskirts of Delhi, we get no flavour of the city or its culture. And, hard as they try, it’s impossible to understand or empathise with any of the characters.

This is a story that must have shown great promise in the chapter break-up. Each character gets a voice. Great. The setting is absolutely here and now. Instant connect. Then comes the execution. Pffft.