Book Review | 50 Cups of Coffee: The Woes and Throes of Finding Mr Right

Title: 50 Cups of Coffee: The Woes and Throes of Finding Mr Right
Author: Khushnuma Daruwala
Pages: 196
Price: Rs 250

50-cups-of-coffee-original-imaesy785jxdzbhv50 Cups of Coffee: The Woes and Throes of Finding Mr Right by Khushnuma Daruwala sounded intriguing. I was looking forward to it. The first chapter was a breeze, it set the context and premise for the book. It was light, tongue-in-cheek writing, akin to a conversation across the table with an old friend.

The book is a narration of Dia’s (Daruwala’s friend) fifty dates, all described in Dia’s voice. I particularly love the disclaimer that Daruwala inserted in the lines:

“While this book will do absolutely nothing to allay her fears regarding the paucity of good men, it hopes to lift her spirits and offer a kinship to all women who have suffered similarly disastrous dates.”

And kinship it offers with the many hopeless conversations and incidents that Dia shares with us in the subsequent pages.

Daruwala warns you of the non-linear flow, making it easier to jump in at any chapter. The book also answers why coffee shops are preferred for most first and early dates: “They are casual, allow for quick exits and more importantly, the unlimited flow of caffeine and sugary treats help soothe frayed nerves.”

The chapters are short reads with snappy titles, almost like a compilation of blog posts. Daruwala covers a range of issues: from men with mommy issues to stalkers.

The book held promise. But I ploughed through most of it. It was funny and humorous, but it told me nothing that I didn’t already know. The writing is cheeky and clever but there’s a lot of drama and hyperbole within the pages. A tinge of despair, too. And after a while, it got frustrating to read Dia’s stance. From being a sympathiser in the first few pages, I got almost exasperated in a few instances towards the end. Some chapters just didn’t make any sense and seemed like a forced insertion to touch the number 50.

But 50 Cups of Coffee left me with one insight: Why do the good bits outshout the bad? The answer lies in the theory that negative memories (unlike the positive) “get fragmented into different parts—the feeling, the visual, the sound the sensations, etc. are all saved as different ‘files’ in different parts of the brain. Which is why when you try to retrieve a negative memory, you merely retrieve one part of it and not the whole memory. Which in turn makes it feel weaker and less intense.”

That’s my takeaway from the book. I was hoping for a nice warm, fuzzy read. What I got were a bunch of exaggerated reflections, which led me to wonder why Dia was still out there in search of Mr Right, when she could have just gone on with life unscathed.

Tiny leaps of faith

It read like a regular engagement invite. Time, venue, directions, et al. And I had vaguely heard about their relationship. They had been introduced to each other on Twitter by a well-meaning friend. And it had been a long-distance relationship for the last few months. She and I bonded over words. He and I were acquaintances at best.

The sun and the clouds played hide and seek that afternoon. Alternating between powerful bouts of sunshine and a gentle soothing breeze. It was a small, intimate gathering (later I remarked to the husband that I was overwhelmed that they counted us among their closest set of friends). But both sets of parents were conspicuous by their absence. A fact that nagged me the entire time.

When the couple took centre stage, after a flurry of photographs, both candid and posed, it was refreshing to see just the two of them. Standing next to each other. Alone, but together. Just like their days to come would be. One for the other. There were some awkward pauses with the microphone in hand. But they led each other by instinct. Conviction. And hope.

They exchanged rings with wide smiles on their faces. They showed off the rings like they had been rehearsing for that very moment all their lives. And they let the emotions flow. She spoke of how “normal” her fiancé is, perhaps his most endearing trait. And he acknowledged her planning skills. They sang for each other, full-throated. Oblivious that they had an audience. And both reiterated that the simplicity, intimacy and informality was a conscious decision.

It was a brave, bold thing to do. I had dreamt of an engagement ceremony just like this. But I had lacked the conviction and strength to push for it. And that Saturday afternoon showed me what I had missed. It was a subtle reminder of what I should have stood up for.

I left the venue feeling bittersweet. In awe of their courage. And a little disappointed by the lack of my own. But I knew that change was on its way. In the tiny leaps of faith, I saw that afternoon.

Repletion

I seek it every time I glance at the self in the mirror, to tuck an errant hair strand in place. I seek it each time I slip into a traditional outfit that I know will wow the extended family. I seek it each time I choose the comfort of a sensible shoe over a shiny, glamorous pair of heels.

I’ve sought it in the numerous sunsets that have moved me to tears of gratitude. I’ve sought it alone, atop a mountain, bereft of internet connectivity. I’ve sought it in a roomful of well-meaning friends.

I’ve searched for it, with a magnifying glass, in the many job profiles strewn across the internet. I’ve searched for it in a neat and tidy home (the mother would have been proud!). I’ve searched for it in the eyes of my lover.

I’ve combed through stacks of photographs, mark-sheets and certificates, and snail mail. I’ve scoured the insides of umpteen ice cream bowls and wine glasses. I’ve rummaged through emails, memories and the many regrets that the heart holds.

I’ve looked for it in sly, furtive glances across the table, secret text messages and heaps of 3 am phone conversations.

And one day, I found it. In a bookstore, on a Sunday morning, selecting books for strangers to savour. The books weren’t mine to give. Neither were the words they held. Only the selection was mine. Almost like I was sharing a piece of myself with someone whom I was yet to meet. And surprisingly, it felt really good.

A warm rush of contentment embraced me, and the lips could barely frame a coherent sentence.

Book Review: Zoon

Title: Zoon
Author: Selina Sen
Pages: 375
Price: INR 399

51nym4qsp2l-_sx323_bo1204203200_Zoon by Selina Sen is a beautiful read on Kashmir, love and longing.

Yes, before you ask, zoon is an actual word. It means moon in Kashmiri and is a popular name for girls in the Valley.

Our Zoon is the 16th century Kashmiri queen, poet and musician, Habba Khatoon. She is the protagonist of Bollywood director Shantanu Rai’s magnum opus. And by and by, we also realise that Zoon is a metaphor for the Kashmir Valley, which is, today, marred by curfews, barricades, despair and immense anger.

It’s the late 1980s, and Kashmir is a paradise for tourists. Rai transports his entire crew, including an internationally acclaimed film personality, to the romantic landscape of the Valley to shoot Zoon. Joya, freshly graduated from film school, is also part Rai’s production unit. She is to work alongside Rashid, a young Kashmiri historian.

At the face of it, they make an odd pair. But they soon find themselves irresistibly drawn to each other, while Kashmir serves as the perfect backdrop. Until a shocking incident of terrorism alters their lives forever. The shoot is abandoned, the Valley is gripped by terrorism and militancy and Zoon once again lies buried in the forgotten pages of history.

A decade later, Joya is inspired to complete Zoon and returns of Kashmir. She is there to make amends. To say that it is a struggle is an understatement. But Joya is determined. And perhaps, it is only Zoon that she lives and breathes for.

I enjoyed Zoon. I savoured all the bits set in Kashmir and Joya’s emotional turmoil felt like my own. There’s despair and disappointment all around but love keeps her intact. Just the very thought of it. It was ephemeral. But it was all she had. Perhaps, it was all she needed. And Zoon is her victory.

Read it for Joya and for Habba Khatoon. But also read Zoon for Kashmir and its despair.

Learn more about Zoon.