The Windfall by Diksha Basu – Hilarious and Quintessentially Indian
14th September, 2017
A hilarious read about the Jhas who get wealthy unexpectedly. But with money comes new complications.
When Mr. Jha comes across new money by selling a website domain, he is elated. Soon Mr and Mrs. Jha move into a posh neighbourhood leaving their cramped apartment and old friends. Rupak, their son, like many Indians is trying to live the American dream. But things are not going as smooth as they plan.
Stepping into an Indian Household
After the first few pages, I was right inside an Indian home – clumped up sugar because of humidity and saucepan with the handle coming loose because of the screw (Seriously! Why does that happen to every saucepan?).
I loved all the characters! They were delightful to read about, be it Rupak, who is failing at his degree or Mr. Jha desperately trying to fit in (crystal studded sofas, new security guard, golf mania) or Mr. Chopra desperately trying to show off his wealth or Mrs. Ray worrying about who has stolen her yoga pants. Mrs. Jha is such a wonderful character. She doesn’t understand why they need to live in a way that makes them unhappy in order to project themselves as the elite to others. She is often mistaken for a servant because she doesn’t wear expensive saris. The course of events is genuinely funny and a delight to read.
I loved how every character was genuinely human and had a grey side (including Mrs. Jha) as well as a good side.
While Mr. Jha is trying to fit in his new version of the rich guy in a posh neighbourhood, his son, Rupak, is trying to fit in America, far away from his parents. I loved how both the storylines were equally effective to the plot.
“It was all his own fault, Rupak knew. He got to America soon after his parents became wealthy, and he immediately fell in love–not with Elizabeth, but with the whole country, and with the bank account that his father kept replenishing. He found himself falling into a version of what he thought life in America was meant to be.”
One reason I was skeptical about the novel was because I thought this might be another immigrant story. Many novels from authors of Indian origin residing abroad have similar (or to be blunt, the same) themes. The Windfall was a nice surprise. It has your usual Indian parents who are over anxious about their kids but it also tells you why they behave that way. I love the well rounded approach that Basu took in this direction. While Rupak harbours a picture of the ‘stereotypical parent figures’ in his mind, we as readers realize they are not so bad when he opens up to them. They are not perfect; but neither are they demons.
Also another usual cliché is ‘leave your job and follow art and passion’. Not that I have anything against talented people who do that and fulfill their dreams. But sometimes authors tend to write unrealistic endings for characters. I liked how Rupak weighed his pros and cons before coming to a decision.
Mrs. Reema Ray is a widow and an old friend of Mrs. Jha. She is often the centre of gossip because of her modern style of dressing. She puts to shame the notion that Indian widows are not independent and are suppressed. However I found the romance that develops in Reema’s life (which again breaks another stereotype), thanks to Mrs. Jha’s calculations, to be dull.
Another cliché busted? In many books is the white girlfriend of the protagonist would be a horrible and rich person and the Indian girlfriend would give the story the perfect ending. Basu shows her minor characters exactly as they should be seen, without staging them in either extremes but just as humans with a mix of good and bad.
Basu makes the reader giggle with her sarcasm. There is a passage about how Indians are desperately trying to westernize their food. We read about dosas with fillings being served as desi tacos and not as dosas. The book is hilarious, I tell you.
Final Verdict :
It is a perfect light read, very entertaining and written well. I loved the way the story ended; not the fairytale ending that you think might happen but an ending that you read and say “Ah! That’s perfect!”. If you are looking for a relaxing read, definitely give The Windfall a try.
Title : The Windfall
Author : Diksha Basu
Publisher : Bloomsbury
Language : English
Pages : 294
Rating : 3.5/5
Disclaimer : Much thanks to Bloomsbury India for a copy of the book. All opinions are my own.
Have you read the Windfall? Any books that made you laugh recently?