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Quick Lit | Aadisht Khanna

Not much luck

Contemporary Indian writing in English is no exception to Sturgeon’s law, a grumpy statement that 90% of everything is dreck (the original uses a stronger word). Farhad J. Dadyburjor’s How I Got Lucky is definitely a member of that 90%. It does not sink to the depths of the grammarless stream of semi-consciousness writing that has occasionally plagued this reviewer’s inbox, but nothing better can be said about it.

How I Got Lucky is a novel about Mumbai’s high society, told from the perspective of multiple characters: a reporter covering the Bollywood and fashion beats, a PR agent, a fashion photographer, an almost-there actor, and a cyber sex-worker. The storytelling mostly consists of vignettes about how these characters interact with each other, loosely linked by their desire to get ahead in life. There have been books about high society before. Kanika Gahlaut’s Among the Chatterati: The Diary of a Page Three Hack draws on a tradition going back to William Thackeray’s 165-year-old Vanity Fair. Dadyburjor’s book doesn’t show us anything that these books haven’t already done, and done better at that.

How I Got Lucky: By Farhad J Dadyburjor, Random House India, 328 pages, Rs250
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How I Got Lucky: By Farhad J Dadyburjor, Random House India, 328 pages, Rs250

The fundamental flaw at the heart of the book, though, is that it looks at the culture of the party pages without bothering to give readers a reason why they should find it interesting. For Dadyburjor, Page 3 is a nasty and dispiriting world that sends his primary protagonist into heartbreak and therapy, but it’s the only world there is. Narcissistic and self-indulgent as Guru Dutt’s Pyaasa was, it still held up an alternative to the corruption of the world its protagonist inhabited.

With a different narrative voice or a more diverse cast of characters, Dadyburjor could have turned his story into a satire like Vanity Fair.

But he couldn’t be bothered, so the result is a story of unlikeable characters.

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