Review of Perfectly Untraditional; Sweta Srivastava Vikram; Niyogi Books 2011; Rs 350; pp 214
– Shana Susan Ninan
The cover of the hardbound book, Perfectly Untraditional, by Sweta Vikram, reaches your eyes in a white and pink hue, with rose petals taking the centre stage. But then there’s also the ironic vase-shaped white in the middle – also resembling a lady’s profile. Shaili Kapoor, the strong protagonist, believes that you find happiness in looking beyond the other’s imperfections. Not all relations are perfect; so aren’t the people involved in them.
Shaili finds out too late that she isn’t like the other Indian girls her age. But she doesn’t confront life head on. She takes her time. Over-bearing parents, tradition-bound society, conformist communities and an ever-judging family doesn’t help her case, either! She makes amends to her always-distant father when she years later to attend her mother’s funeral. It is a time of reconciliation and relieving of regrets and remorses.
Her name means ‘tradition’ and we find that at least two people ask Shaili whether she’s traditional, like her name suggests. We find out that she’s defiant, finds her head and lives a life that makes her happy. Her choices, two marriages, life away from home and parents and a deviant lifestyle aren’t acceptable to her parents. But as the story unfolds, we see that she is who she is because of many probable reasons – an overly strict father, a mother who wanted to keep peace in the family, unhelpful sister and marriage to a total stranger, all mould her life into what she is today.
I won’t break the suspense as to why she is what she is today. But, be assured that this book is a uniquely gripping, with an arm around you all the time you’re reading it. I’m sure Shaili’s story will open our eyes to the relationships in our lives, especially the ones we’ve been brushing under the carpet or have hushed away in the corners of our hearts.
A graduate of Columbia University and living in New York with her husband, Sweta writes a bold and powerful story that leaves you finishing the book in a day. The symbolisms and bundle of emotional tales hold you tight. The plot is woven beautifully – quite a narrative style, I tell you. Sweta’s choice of words and phrases are carefully chosen, entwine the tone of the particular situation.