Never Be Pricey

I am a fan of Anuja Chauhan.

This young lady, who looks like she is fifteen in her book snap shots, mother of three teenagers,previous Senior VP of a top Ad agency, writer of columns and brilliant books, is down to earth and very witty.(Btw, the frothy, tempting, Yeh Dil Maange More was her own line!)

But her latest book, ‘The house that BJ built, ‘ disappointed me.

When I  read her debut novel,  Zoya Factor, I was surprised at  her  bubbly writing , her deep knowledge of the field (cricket and advertising) and the Hindi-English mad cap jokes, perfect understanding of the typical Indian society (low/middle/high/whatever), deeper understanding of dresses, man woman crushes, little children, assorted aunts (even Wodehouse might not have captured aunts so brilliantly!), fathers, sisters, etc etc.. It was sheer brilliance.

By the time she ventured into Battle for Bittora (Based on Indian elections, a melange of all things goofy and great. She is also the D-I-L of veteran politician Margaret Alvaji), I found myself laughing aloud at her perspicacity. Then came “Those Pricey Thakur Girls”, a description of growing up in a family of pretty sisters and Doordarshan Chitrahaar era.

All the novels were peppered by light humour, salted by divine wisdom of the local swear words (sprinkled very subtly), and lots of passionate love. I recommended all of her books to my teenager, who became an ardent fan too, like her mom.

We both eagerly awaited the sequel of Thakur  Girls. But something happened, which gave a bitter taste to that reading experience.Too many swear words of the worst kind!  A tendency to go overboard with the descriptions of female anatomy! Too much slickness a la Uriah Heep. (Unctuousness, I think , is the word Dickens used ). Also, I remembered the Harry Potter series,  each growing bigger and bigger, with lesser and lesser substance. Brevity, apparently was an art, that  was first chewed up and later spat out  by the monsters of marketing and seekers of  popularity, worldwide.

For the first time, I hesitated while offering Anuja’s book to my daughter. We did laugh at the occasional flashes of brilliant word play; but she agreed too- the writer was trying too desperately to impress. Why would there be tonnes of swear words in every page? Hindi, English, mixed? Too much of anything, soon bores and numbs . Even the infallible Amrit,  if  consumed in overwhelming proportions,  would turn poisonous. At least that’s how the vernacular proverb goes. “The House That BJ Built” unfortunately, suffers from that failing.

Anuja knows the world of clothes, films, family property disputes and romance perfectly well. But her innocent writing charm, sweet romantic descriptions, the elegance and laugh aloud humour of her earlier books were starkly missing  from this one.As an advertising professional, she should know it all too well: Customers are the Kings. Or Queens.

My dear Anuja(ji), not all the marketing figures can make up for the devotion of your readers. Always keep your basic customer base as your priority. If you scandalize them with over eagerness to shock and impress, they will get disappointed.We are your simple fans, you see. We are the ones who will spent hard earned money for enjoying your wonderful tales.  (Because, we  can exactly recollect the pangs and jubilations.) The moment we feel, as if you are too uppity and too worldly wise, we will stop being impressed.

Give us today, our daily dal, my dear. We will manage without lead infested instant noodles.

Just keep being you. Chuck out the marketing master plan. And yes, the next book you write, keep it simple and sweet. May that one be as entrancing as that street urchin grin of Anuja Chauhan , caught in camera by her own daughter.


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