12 February 2012

The Reluctant Detective by Kiran Manral

But what about the ghost?
Kiran Manral, I, and two other writers, Shital Mehra and Tishani Doshi, were on a panel together at an event for new books, Fresh off the Shelf, at the Kala Ghoda festival in Mumbai yesterday. We each read out a little from our respective books and answered audience questions. It was fun.

I had just finished reading The Reluctant Detective and wondered, when Kiran Manral introduced me to her husband and son before the event, how much of them I had already met in the book!
Kay, a young housewife and mother in Bombay, is the giddy-headed narrator. At first I found the language convoluted but once it had made me laugh aloud a couple of times, I decided to stop being judgemental and enjoy myself. The rapid-fire monologue is even in tone and describes the people and events in Kay’s life – her obsession with clothes, her hyperactive son (um – wonder where he gets that from), her neighbours, friends and rather serious husband. Check this.
I am a kind-hearted sensitive soul. I take stray cockroaches from my home and let them loose in the balcony, hoping they find other homes to inhabit, favourable wind conditions permitting. Before they hit the asphalt. It is not in my nature to splat them with a slipper. Murder and violence of any sort disturbs me. I cannot watch news bulletins without tears trickling down my face, and if by some chance of fate I land on a documentary on starving children, the world is guaranteed a full-fledged howling session.
A dialogue that had me in splits was between Kay and her housemaid Jamuna, when she instructs her not to disturb her unless there was need for immediate evacuation of the building.
Jamuna nodded the kind of nod she has when she values her life and limbs.
“Phone aaya toh?” she asked warily.
“Take a message,” I replied.
“Urgent bola to?” she persisted with the kind of attention to detail which has me pleased should she choose to use it to get that last bit of grime out from behind the door in the cabinet beneath the bathroom sink.
“Saab ka number de do,” I replied in the kind of tone which brooked no further conversation. But not to Jamuna.
“Saab ne nahin uthaya to?” she went on.
I blew a mini fuse and did some yelling, and ended with closing the door hard and loud, and had the effect quite ruined with the child pushing the door open the next second and asking me to hop and shaoud laoudly agin so he could call his frens to watch.
There is even a dead body – two of them, actually – so I kept thinking that Kay was one of those Inspector Clousseau type bumbling detectives but was ultimately disappointed there because there’s no serious building up of suspense or the kind of dramatic revelations that one expects in a murder mystery.
At Kala Ghoda, Kiran explained that she had wanted to write about the specific demographic that she is immersed in – that of young, educated women who have chosen to devote their lives to their families rather than career. This she has done well Kay is a magnificent example of this group with all her matching accessories, Wodehouse-Blyton-Austen language (including sharp spikes of Manral original), domestic staff, incessant tweets, and more. And The Reluctant Detective is a funny, enjoyable book but not really a serious detective story.

No comments:

Post a Comment