Saturday, May 19, 2012

Tittering on the edge : Thoughts on 'It's your move, Wordfreak!"

Wordfreak aka Aryan and Worddiva aka Alisha hit it off as opponents in an online Scrabble game. Several steamy chat sessions later, they decide to meet and find – oh happy fates! – that neither is a fat, hairy, psycho/ serial killer/ rapist.  Even better, they are both impossibly gorgeous, breath-takingly tall,  super rich, conveniently single  and utterly besotted with each  other .    And I haven’t even mentioned their socially useful careers yet - Alisha helps  women escape abusive marriages, while  Aryan builds green homes by day, swings with Mumbai’s swish set by night and sweet talks them into financing his rural projects.  

One gaudy Punjabi wedding  straight out of a Karan Johar film- and several  bouts of  coyly described sex – later,  Aryan and Alisha seem all set for the happily ever after. Except that Scrabble is promptly replaced by Squabble.  Alisha is attacked by a client’s disgruntled ex, and Aryan chooses the opportunity to unleash his inner caveman. He yells. She weeps. He disappears.  What is a smart , independent no-nonsense girl with a successful career , to do?

Drop everything and follow in his manly and troubled footsteps, according to Kothari. For despite Aryan revealing himself to be a chauvinist, alarmingly violent and contemptuous of the law (all in the name of love, cries Kothari), Alisha packs her bags and hares off to London with his Nani , where  she helps her true love confront his troubled past, patch up with his estranged father and half-siblings,  and realize just how badly the plot needs another gaudy Punjabi  wedding  - sorry, how much he loves her.  KJo  would approve.  I don’t.

Wordfreak is a book that tries to be a lot of things, in a half hearted sort of way. The first half swings from ‘hot (well, tepid actually) Mills and Boon choli-ripper’ one second, to ‘ sensitive look at a modern day relationship’ the next; the second aims for  full blown Bollywood melodrama.  It also  offers up randomly scattered observations about everything from gender equality and  India’s spiraling divorce rate, to green design  and differing skin tone ( “the quintessential difference between them – he was a North Indian Aryan, and she was a South Indian Dravidian.”) .  The book does have some interesting characters – Diya, Uncle Sam, Alisha herself – but they soon disappear in this unreal  world  where everyone is thin, beautiful and  loaded, and loyally served by a retinue of smiling servants. Also slaves to filmi stereotype - The North Indians are perennially overdressed ,  swinging at weddings or travelling abroad; South Indian Alisha  seems to eat nothing at home  besides idlis and dosas . 

Wordfreak  managed to annoy me with repeated references to Alisha’s “chocolate eyes”, as well as her various pet names – “Lee-sha” and “Sunshine”.  There is also  plenty of unintended humour, thanks to the prissy –or downright careless-  wording in all those sex scenes. Sample – “He groaned, loving what she did to him..How was he supposed to moderate this?”  Where are you, dude, at a high school debate?  Or, “He aroused them… until they tittered (sic) ..on the edge of annihilation.” I tittered too. 

And what is one to make of all the misplaced snippets of information throughout the plot? Why, in the midst of an emotional moment, do we need to know the details of Aryan’s post graduate studies? And why, after a deluge of ‘kuttis’ and ‘sahodarans’ – not to mention all those idlis – are we helpfully informed that Alisha speaks  Malayalam, exactly  two pages from the ending? 

Your move, editor?

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  1. Thanks for this review, WJ. I had seen this book in stores, and the blurb sounded attractive- the meeting of two minds over their love of words. Now I think it was good that I didn't pick it up.

  2. I went through so many reviews of this book after mine and couldnt find even one that thought this was just okayish at best...Thank you for this review..phew! i almost thought Blogadda would wrench by book review privilege right off my contemptuous hands...:)

    Read mine here..if you want to that is