The Vague Woman’s Handbook
By Devapriya Roy
The book had me at its title, to paraphrase the ‘You had me at hello’ line from Jerry McGuire. The Vague Woman’s Handbook, it said. Am I vague? Do birds fly? Okay, now don’t bring in ostriches and emus and penguins and the lot of them avian classified creatures which don’t take to the air, but you have the gist of what I’m trying to get across, don’t you. Ergo, a vague woman who has been known to salt the tea and sugar the sabji, and who can never remember for the life of her when her bills are due, and when stuff runs out in the home. And yes, a woman who has learnt to drive thrice, holds a valid driving licence but never drives, because, god, how on earth am I expected to concentrate on so many different things- clutch, brake, accelerator and then damn traffic. Too much to ask of me.
Therefore I picked up this book with great expectations, and am delighted to state I was not let down. The story is about Sharmila Chatterjee and Indira Sen, thrown together by circumstance and a job. Sharmila is in her early 20s and Indira, her mid 50s. Sharmila or Mil as she is called through the book, is married to Abhimanyu Mishra, an academic with the promise of a brilliant future who gives it all up to concentrate on what he feels is morally right, and Sharmila takes a zero semester to set up home and get a job after their impetuous marriage which has both families disown them. Indira, on the other hand, is neck deep in credit card debt, lives with her mother, her uncle and her mother in law in a rambling house and is completely responsible for the day to day grocery shopping, maintenance in addition to her job at the Academy The two women meet and become the unlikeliest of friends, and over many coffees and burgers and sandwiches and tarts, they resolve life issues, provide each other sound advice and generally act as the emotional anchor each need, which they aren’t able to get at home.
Crisply written, every woman would be able to catch some glimpse of herself in either of the two main characters. The situations they find themselves in, eerily similar to what many of us have either been through or are experiencing right now. (Sigh. I so need a Mil to get me to cut up my credit cards. Any volunteers out there?). Interspersed liberally with humour, anxiety, female bonding and liberal references to books and authors, given that the two ladies work in the Academy of Literature, this book is a paeon to female friendship-strengthening, nurturing and cathartic. All in all, a fun, quick read, one that lifts your spirits and makes you want to run out and give your BFF a big hug.
And for all you women out there, who want to win an autographed copy of The Vague Woman’s Handbook, here’s a contest. Post a comment on your most memorable ‘Vague Woman’ moment. The author of the book, Devapriya Roy, will select the five most interesting comments and ta da, the books will be sent across for your reading pleasure. Remember, the judge’s decision is final and the author and I reserve the right to revoke any decision if we feel so. Post your comments in by the end of week.