Book review: Dina Mehta’s Mila in Love

first_imgMila in Love By Dina Mehta Penguin Price: RS 295, Pages: 267Move over messrs Aniruddha Bahal and Ardashir Vakil-the true claimant for this year’s Bad Sex Award in Indian Writing in English has arrived. It is Dina Mehta with her new novel Mila in Love, where she describes the sexual,Mila in Love By Dina Mehta Penguin Price: RS 295, Pages: 267Move over messrs Aniruddha Bahal and Ardashir Vakil-the true claimant for this year’s Bad Sex Award in Indian Writing in English has arrived. It is Dina Mehta with her new novel Mila in Love, where she describes the sexual congress of Mila’s father and his concubine-cum-secretary (the author’s phrase, dear reader, not mine) in a Juhu shack.The novel, with Mila telling us about her nutty mother and all, is scarily redolent of last year’s Shahnaz by Hiro Boga. Mehta’s new book is, yawn, yet another enterprise that claims to be a Mumbai novel-but for all the sights, sounds and smells of the city that we get, the story could just as well have been set in Bathinda or Bagalkot and would not have lost any authenticity. Here is the tale of young Sharmila a.k.a Mila growing up in a dysfunctional milieu that includes the regular cast of an unfaithful businessman father, a beautiful but crazy mother and a bed-wetting elder brother. Added to this delightless foursome are sundry grandmothers, aunts and uncles, completing a family with whom one can live unhappily ever after. And so Mila squelches around in the slough of her utterly unhappy adolescence. The nadir comes when her mentally unstable mother careens to a suitably abrupt death. And then there is Mila’s discovery of her father’s liaison with his secretary, the luscious Gita. The only oasis in this arid zone of Mila’s growing years is her infatuation with the hunky Rayhaan – but he, in J.K. Rowling lingo, seems to apparate and disapparate from her life with regularity.Even as Mila craves for Rayhaan, she suddenly gets airlifted to Los Angeles as a reward for discovering Daddy’s passion-ration. Surely, the quickest route to a one-way international ticket. There is little of Mumbai in the story and less of Los Angeles; there is only the unending, high-pitched plaint of Mila.And in a desperately unattractive style. Here are some of the clunkiest prose I have read in recent years: “Poverty sported on the beach in the garb of beggars and fortune tellers”, “A battling self-respect made her want to show her granny that she was not to be yoked into vassalage”, and then,”Did youth always gallop off impetuously like a riderless horse, leaving you slow, your face fallen, your hands that had failed to rein him wired with thick blue veins?” Not to forget the continuous mention of terms like the”distaff side”. Reading this almost unreadable novel is like smooching a dementor from Azkaban-it removes all happiness from the reader. And oh, the cover. The Prabuddha Das Gupta photograph of a svelte nymphet silhouetted against the sea is very attractive:”Mila in Lust” anyone? At the end, Miss Mila’s Sense of Love may be charming for some, but it definitely ain’t me. And yes, in case you were worried, after returning from the City of Angels, Mila does claim her lost baggage of yesteryears. But frankly, dear reader, by that time, I didn’t give a damn.advertisementlast_img