04 July 2014

Stupid Cupid by Mamang Dai

Not by its cover

This book is not ‘chick-lit’, as its title indicates. Neither is it a ‘metro read’ as you might anticipate, looking at its cover. The blurb is equally misleading. What we have here is a well-written, intelligent piece of work which could provide several pleasant hours to a spectrum of readers.
Mamang Dai, the book tells us, is a journalist and former civil servant based in Itanagar. And, though Stupid Cupid is very much a Delhi novel, Arunachal Pradesh inhabits it at various levels.
Starting with the intriguing premise of a house converted into a hotel in which rooms might be rented by the hour, this book is not strewn with titillating scenes – or even much promiscuity. Its characters’ actions reflect independent thought and mature choices. We glimpse a little of the lifestyle of Arunachal Pradesh, understand some of the agonies of the beautiful border state, and meet some of its stereotypical characters. On an excursion to the narrator’s village, the eager tourist in me was disappointed not to be lavished with rich descriptions of the flora, fauna and local exotica – though I admired the author’s restraint in not providing it. Adna is a strong woman who lives life on her own terms. To observe her intrinsic vulnerability is to wonder whether such characteristics are shared by other (or all) women. And as we move to the end of the book, we find that the medley of unorthodox relationships has somehow developed into a comfort zone incorporating the feelings of familiarity and affection that prevails in most families. Perhaps life is not so very peculiar, after all.