When Bollywood wives take up careers like interior designing, it raises no eyebrows. When they write witty columns offering a peep into their lives, laced with some subtle preaching and not-so-subtle sarcasm, you are kind of pleasantly surprised. “Yes, nice, breezy read,” you say, dismissing it as a fluke. But when they come up with stories like The Legend of Lakshmi Prasad, you sit up, and change your stereotyped opinion.
Twinkle Khanna might come across as some sort of preachy headmistress during her TV and public appearances, but with just four stories in her new book, she manages to change perceptions. We have had writings with far more impact and gravitas on social issues, including feminism, by far more established and respected authors, but Lakshmi Prasad has the potential to achieve what can be called in movie parlance, ‘a box-office hit’. The book is already climbing the bestseller charts.
The stories are simple, uncomplicated, ‘nice, breezy reads’, but pack a smooth punch. And here lies the charm of the book—being effortless, unexaggerated and unpreachy, but still having gravitas, still touching a chord, and leaving the reader pondering.
In The Legend of Lakshmi Prasad, the author tackles the stigma of the girl child. The answers might be a bit too simplistic, but the country might just need such solutions. The message is not the solution, but a willingness to change, to see a new perspective. That alone is the start of a revolution.
Twinkle has been a social media champion of feminism, stating things like “married not branded” in response to questions on not changing her name after marriage. Commoditisation of women and the need to fit into prescribed identity slots, like wife of XYZ, goes for a toss in If the Weather Permits, where Elise marries a record five times, but in the end belongs more to herself than anyone else.
However, the most heartwarming stories are Salaam, Noni Appa and The Sanitary Man from a Sacred Land. The feminist in the author rises again in Noni Appa, as she narrates a story of finding companionship and love in the dusk of life. The portrayal of the two sisters is touching, and this is the story that brings the biggest smile to the reader’s face.
The Sanitary Man is a fictionalised account of the life of Padma Shri awardee Arunachalam Muruganantham, talking about taboos like menstruation. Bablu is an endearing character and his struggle to produce a hygienic and cheap alternative to dirty cloth rags used by women is inspiring.
Brevity, wit, message and a star name—Lakshmi Prasad defines the elusive ‘hit formula’ that guarantees success, be it movies or publishing. It also defies perceptions that good writing has to be heavy, nuanced, deep and lengthy. We have more and more Indian writers delivering simple, shorter stories that are widely read and appreciated, with the most popular authors also belonging to the same camp.