Thursday, November 12, 2009

Review: A Pack of Lies by Urmilla Deshpande

By John Cheeran
I must say I thoroughly enjoyed reading A Pack of Lies by Urmilla Deshpande. At 46, this is her first novel.
In the last 12 months I have been reading quite a few Indian authors, and I cannot say many of them have managed to impress me with their craft.
A Pack of Lies is chic-lit, but it has an appealing lad-lit approach which wins over the reader. Yes, it’s a coming-of-age novel in the backdrop of Bombay in the early 80s.
Although Urmilla calls the effort a pack of lies, the honesty that informs her writing only falls short of the brutal candour that Kamala Das brought to her poetry and fiction.
You can only read A Pack of Lies aware of the tryst that you missed with the possibilities in your life. As Urmilla’s Virginia (Ginny) calls it, a colliding with possibilities.
As you flip the pages, you are not particularly looking for any denouement. For, there is not one. Except for Urmilla’s telling punch line, “I had told the truth, for once.”
It’s another point that whether lacking a beginning, middle, and end in the conventional sense, denies A Pack of Lies a status anything better than an intimate personal history.
Urmilla’s teenage heroine Virginia lives an independent life which, even today, remains unattainable for an average Indian urban girl. In Virginia’s world she makes all her decisions for herself, and though men have a role in that, but not one that leaves her feeling strangled all the time.
Yes, I guess, Urmilla has shed the last shred of inhibition to tell it like it is, stood before the reader as a model for a nude photo-shoot, as Virginia herself enjoyed to find herself in an avatar quite different and defiant, and even it is all a pack of lies, it takes courage.
And the most redeeming aspect of A Pack of Lies is that Virgina has no need to confess to the reader. She gets a grip on her life by spending time with the shrink, aptly named as angel Gabriel, and finally paying tribute to her mother, who was at times cold and acerbic, but eventually making peace with herself and her daughter.
In the end, the kind of choices that Urmilla offers Virginia makes you realize that power has shifted from man to woman. But then, Virginia, is no ordinary woman. She lets her lovers walk free, starting from her step-father, college-kid Roy, Jihadi Jamal, photographer Kamal, and even father of her baby, without a trace of bitterness.
I’m ready to embrace such a woman, if there is anyone round the corner.

Excerpts from A Pack of Lies
“But I had never known a love, new or otherwise. All I knew, as Gabriel had told me, were ways to find a reflection of myself that I could live with. And sometimes the only way had been physical. I offered my cunt and all its accoutrements – my brain, my apartment, my cooking skill—to all who happened to glance at me, and hoped that what I offered was enough to make them love.”

And what the hell you want?
“I want to be with a man who will be my bra and tampon and credit card and cook and pedicurist and masseuse and driver and muse, vibrator, comb, gardener and pilot. And I will be everything for him.”

Urmilla Deshpande, 46, lives in Tallahassee, Florida with her family. Modelling, photography, editing and motherhood prepared her to write. She never thought she would follow in the footsteps of her mother, gauri Deshpande, and her grandmother, Irawati Karve.

1 comment:

Urmilla said...

Thank you for this review, I'm glad you enjoyed my book!

John Cheeran at Blogged