Girl talk

Confession: By the end of the first chapter of Meenakshi Reddy Madhavan’s Cold Feet, I had mostly made up my mind about what kind of book this would be. It would surely be yet another fake female bonding chick lit: For heaven’s sake it starts with a bachelorette party where four out of the five protagonists—Amisha, Shayna, Ladli and Akshara—are introduced to the reader.

I knew exactly which protagonist was closest to the author’s heart and why “hipster" Shayna would get the best story. I was bored by “bride-to-be" Amisha and uninterested in the room-mates, “clingy" Ladli and “desperate" Akshara. And I thought the fifth protagonist would be the “bossy woman" who was annoyed to find out that she was not the groom-to-be’s “favourite person".

But by the fifth chapter I revised my opinion—no, not about who I imagined would be the author’s fave protagonist, but about who would get the best story in the book.

The narrative explores the lives of five girls, and the smart thing that Madhavan does is to let the readers be privy to their thoughts—what they think about their interactions with the people in their lives and how they react to each other—in their own words rather than through a third-person account. The only time you hear an outside narrative in this book is at the bachelorette. Thereafter, it is up to you to understand and empathize with the characters based on what they tell you and what you understand from it.

One common thread between the girls is their romantic and sexual engagements. Amisha has the bridal jitters; Shayna dates a much older man and cannot decide if this is an ideal situation or not for her; Akshara is in love with a friend and wants to move the relationship to the next level; Ladli is obsessed with a man who wants nothing more to do with her. The last protagonist, who remains unnamed until the penultimate chapter, is the real surprise package and makes her appearance in the fifth chapter. She thinks of herself as the “Robin Hood of public transport" and lives as a paying guest with Aunty Bidisha who is “very large, in a somewhat shapeless way, like a mattress which has lost its bounce".

Of the lot, Shayna is the most spunky and on paper has everything going for her until the unnamed character’s vulnerability, her seedy environment, described in detail, her pathetic yet endearing attempts to get close to the object of her attraction and her quiet jealousy are laid bare before the reader. I wanted to know more about her, I wanted her to interact with all the women in the book. It was the character that I thought would topple the balance in each of the characters’ lives, but she remains on the fringe.

The book ends on a note where some things are resolved and others are left hanging. Perhaps Madhavan may follow with a sequel. But first she must spend some more time building a more concrete relationship and meaningful interactions between the five women, else it is hard to see exactly why they are all together in the same book.