The apt word to describe Santosh Desai’s Mother Pious Lady would be insightful. But, is that good enough reason to pick it up?
Santosh Desai is perhaps one of the most recognised names in India’s advertising industry and is currently the managing director and chief executive of Future Brands India Ltd. And while he strayed into writing, everyone is glad he did. Social commentary and studying the relationship between cultures and brands are some areas that Desai is proficient in and his first book Mother Pious Lady is primarily a compilation of his column titled City City Bang Bang that he has penned for The Times of India.
Mother Pious Lady is an inspection at our past, a glimpse of our present and a look into why we Indians are the way we are. The book attempts to explain and perhaps understand the fabric of middle class India while at the same time providing pertinent justifications. The manuscript has been formatted to near perfection, divided into various sections under which the columns are compiled. The one clear advantage of this book is its non linear stucture, you can read the essay or section of your choice and never feel lost. Unless you try to figure out the title, that is. Mother Pious Lady is as ambiguous as it can get, especially given the author’s professional background. Yet, perhaps, it does lead to curiousity, the kind that makes you pull a book off the shelf to read it. Also, reading the essay of the same title lends an understanding to his choice.
This book is all about the contradiction that is India and the author uses this to great effect, either praising it or using it to create the right amount of amusement without being disrespectful. For everyone who is connected to India, Desai has an insight to share that will touch a chord. He will make you feel nostalgic, embarrassed and proud, while definitely entertaining the Indian in you. It almost feels like a light hearted conversation about everything and anything that holds importance in Indian culture. Bollywood, the Indian institution of marriage, summer holidays, and even the iconic Maruti Suzuki. He writes of things that are familiar, things that you and I have experienced, but, have perhaps never really examined. This book is not exactly light reading, but, thankfully, it does not smack of anything prentitious. Desai’s mastery of wordplay makes every essay readable to the point that you forget that it is indeed, an essay. Fitting illustrations accompany the well written copy, making this a delightful read.
Pick up Mother Pious Lady if you are curious about the way India thinks. It takes you though a journey of discovery, or rediscovery, as the case may be. There might be a time when you put it down, rest assured, you will pick it up again, if only to seek a lending hand in helping you understand all that you might have already perceived.