A tightly woven narrative about naïvete and personal growth in contemporary India.
The title refers to Anjali Bose, who’s trying to delicately balance her identity between the “old” India of her parents and the “new” (and more Westernized) India of her peers. Nineteen-year-old Anjali is from Gauripur, in Bihar province, a not-very-happening place. Her dissatisfaction and boredom are compounded by her lackluster lower-middle-class household, for her father wants to arrange a marriage for his daughter, and Anjali has little patience for this hoary convention. Moreover, her father’s track record is unprepossessing, for Anjali’s only slightly older sister has been through the process and is already divorced. Despite her father’s trotting out more than 75 possible candidates, Anjali has found no one she likes or respects. It’s conceivable that Anjali herself is part of the problem, for she wants far more than either her family or her environment can give her. And when one seemingly ideal candidate for the position of husband rapes her, Anjali is out of there. After a brief stop at the apartment of her unsympathetic sister, and with the urging of ex-pat English teacher Peter Champion, she heads off to Bangalore to test her English-speaking skills in the burgeoning service industry being outsourced to that teeming city. Within 24 hours of her arrival, she has come in contact with a more diverse group of people than she had met in her entire life. Armed with an introduction (from Peter) to Minnie Bagehot’s boarding house, she meets the seductive Husseina, the Christian Tookie from Goa, and the eccentric “Mad Minnie” herself. Despite a two-week cram course in colloquial English, Anjali fails (in a hilarious way from the reader’s perspective) to land a job. And she faces other reality checks as well, including being dragged into the local police station and being completely duped by Husseina.
Mukherjee explores Anjali’s issues with understanding and sympathy.