Saturday, 28 April 2018

The Windfall, by Diksha Basu

Mr and Mrs Jha have done extremely and unexpectedly well from the sale of Mr Jha’s start-up company.  Even though their son Rupak knows that,
had they been more hard-nosed, they would have realised ten times the twenty million American dollars they were paid, his parents are thrilled:  it’s time to live well at last!
            And they do.  A lovely bungalow is purchased in an upper class suburb of Delhi, and a trip to New York is arranged to see Rupak who is studying for his MBA at a minor American college – oh, life couldn’t be better;  now all that is left to do is tell their neighbours, who already have their suspicions because of the brand new Mercedes Benz that glows in its grubby parking space in front of the Jha’s rackety old apartment building in East Delhi.  The parking lot has never been graced with anything more expensive than a Honda in the thirty years that the Jhas have been in residence, so a Windfall must indeed have occurred.
            So begins Ms Basu’s lovely comedy of manners, her Indian version of Keeping Up with the Jones’s – the Jones’s what?  In this case, the Jha’s rich new neighbours, the Chopras, have had the Sistine Chapel recreated inside a dome in their porch, but modesty has prevailed:  Adam, though touched by God, has his privates encased in black shorts.  The Jha’s counter with a black sofa decorated with Swarovski crystals in uncomfortable places, but they have much to learn about being rich:  the electronic shoe-polisher that Mr Jha went to enormous trouble to purchase is surreptitiously returned when Mr Chopra deems said shoe polishers to be vulgar,  and his choice of alcoholic drinks is greeted with sidesplitting guffaws. 
            It doesn’t help that their new neighbours at first mistake Mrs Jha for a maid because of her low-key not-designer saris;  no:  if this is a battle of one-upmanship, it’s surely time for Mr Jha to bring out the heavy artillery!
            The Jha’s trip to New York is not a hundred per cent successful, either:  it is eventually revealed that Rupak is not doing as well with his studies as he led his trusting parents to believe;  in fact he has fallen in love with an American – a white girl with blonde hair and blue eyes!  A small consolation is that the Chopra’s son Johnny is utterly useless, doesn’t work, hangs out with young girls ALL THE TIME, and wants to be a poet.  That ancient adage ‘Money doesn’t buy happiness’ is proven  yet again for both families, as Ms Basu demonstrates so beautifully in this gentle, funny story.  FIVE STARS.

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