Book: Never Mind Yaar
Author: K Mathur
Number of pages: 220
Price: Rs. 350
Bombay has served as the centerpiece for various novelists over the years. But none left me as disappointed as K Mathur in Never Mind Yaar.
The title, according to the author, is symbolic of our tendency to feel defeated by certain problems. But we carry on, often with a consolatory sigh, “Never mind, yaar!” Reminiscent of the “chalta hai” attitude also prevalent in the city. But I felt that it had little to do with the plot in specific. The title had misled me to believe that it would be a happy-go-lucky tale, set in Bombay.
There is nothing happy-go-lucky about the book. The plot revolves around the lives of three young women, in a leading college in the city, chronicling a friendship that transcends cultural barriers. Louella is a Christian; Benaifer, a Parsi; and Shalini, a Hindu. Shalini falls in love with an impetuous student activist, Bhagu. Will her tradition-bound family accept him as the son-in-law; will they make it past all the hurdles that thwart young love? Their two friends, Louella and Benaifer, attempt to play Cupid.
Never Mind Yaar is a slow read. I found that there were too many inane details thrown in there, which did little to move the plot ahead. A few abrupt incidents woven together, sometimes with little connection, continually dot the plot. But Mathur does a fairly good job with evoking the nostalgia of college, the heady joy of confronting limitless possibilities and the innocence of youth. There are occasional flashes of brilliance in her writing, when she is talking of teenage angst, the constant tiffs between Shalini and Bhagu and Bhagu’s dedication to his activist causes. But apart from those chunks, I was mostly left wanting. For some intrigue, excitement and movement in the plot.
Never Mind Yaar is also a jaded read. There’s a fair amount of cynicism into what Bombay has become.
Mathur attempts to cover too many things in the story: the city’s secular culture, its encounters with terrorism and its subsequent recovery, its cosmopolitan fabric, the economic sub-cultures underlying most human interactions, student activism and politics in the city, the nexus between politicians and gangsters, etc., among others. Instead, I wish she had focused on crafting a stronger, crisper plot line and fleshing out Louella, Benaifer and Shalini’s parents in greater detail. There is only a perfunctory mention of their backgrounds in the beginning of the book, further adding to the air of tokenism.
The writing and editing were sloppy in more than just a few instances. The book could have definitely done with a better editor. There were many sentences that I came across, which left me wondering, “Why do I need to know this bit of information?”
But more than anything else, Never Mind Yaar is about women friendships, about growing up aches and pains, when everything is not completely black and white as it sometimes appears to be, about coming to terms with a lost innocence.
Learn more about Never Mind Yaar.