10 May, 2021

Soup Story

Sadly, Ruia's no Voltaire; the text is peppered with mistakes that make any Indian wince -- there are more black specks in the dal than Ruia intended.

Soup Story
When a book has a clumsy translation as its title, it can go one of two ways. It’ll either be as clunky as its title or the author is forewarning you of the potentially comic hiccups in any cross-cultural exchange between English and Indian. For the most part, Reshma Ruia’s debut novel falls into the latter category.

The tale concerns one Jawahar aka Kavi Naidu, a sentimental aspiring poet, from a middle-class Delhi family of "potential overachievers". His mother instils in her son a deep sense of his own worth. Despite his poetry being highfalutin tripe, Naidu is nominated for a prestigious prize and invited to England. There, he’s entertained by the high commissioner, manhandled by his wife and outmanoeuvred by poetic arch-rival Seth. Through a series of comic mischances, Naidu stays afloat, guided by his mother’s unshakable, entirely misplaced faith in him.

Sadly, Ruia’s no Voltaire, and Naidu owes more to Mr Bean than Candide. The problem in having a first-person narrator who can’t see the obvious is one wants to slap him silly. Worse, the text is...

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