Author: Shobha De
Publishing Date: 2006
Publisher: Penguin Books India Pvt. Ltd
Number of Pages: 232
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Though it is considered cliché for women to write about domestic and married life, to paint it with the colors of brutal honesty is how Shobha De stands out. A leading novelist of contemporary India and an enterprising journalist, Shobha De is one of the few bold women who do not look back once they step their foot down for something.
The Indian high societies or the so-called high-class people are, to put it in raw terms, “conveniently hypocritical.” Shobha De bravely exposes this clandestine Hi-Fi life of the Bombay elite.
The book can be interpreted in different manners, but what fits it best is a reality novel wherein through fictitious characters upon a platform, reality is depicted. Clearly the writer had the urban and the high-class reader in mind as it is they she represents through her characters.
The book introduces characters one-by-one in each chapter at the start of the novel. Her characters are a mix of actors, socialites, aristocrats and high-class house wives.
The book jacket reveals to us that six old friends meet over lunch and it is here that a lot of dark secrets are discovered and confessions made. What catches a reader’s interest is the part which talks about the evil running behind the “smooth” lives of all these friends. Anyone aware of the truth of the so-called elites of our society will not leave the opportunity to read more.
What is catching about the novel is how brilliantly Shobha De entwines together all the faulty aspects of today’s so-called high-class Indian society, which likes to maintain a clean, well mannered and trimmed cover for all the accepted insecurities and dissatisfactions leading to disloyalties and broken lives.
Surprised as we may act, it’s a well-known and well-ignored fact that if we Indians have copied anything from the West in terms of being modern, then it is infidelity, no-strings-attached relations, sex friends etc. And along with this came incest, rape, lies and evil that lurks in the shadow of the imagined reality.
Shobha De strips off the covers of the high-class in our society. She portrays women in terms which may be seen as derogatory by some. However the idea is to show, that for today’s unfortunate so-called “cool and broad minded” youth, the idea of a successful or an independent or a free woman is a woman who lives her individuality by throwing away her modesty, giving herself up to any man she finds attractive for fifteen minutes. It’s fashion to have a zillion boyfriends or to have extra marital affairs or to sleep with relatives.
Marriages are based on looks, social stature, bank balance, car, house, and of course sex. Also, “sex is easy money and shortcut to all dreams.” That’s almost an anthem.
As bold and substantial the book is, it has major faults. The most prominent of all is the title. “Snapshots” does not relate much to the story. The most valid justification for this title is only that when all the six friends in the story are planning to meet up, one of them comes up with the idea of bringing old snap shots.
The snapshots did turn up but were hardly relevant to the theme of the story; though they do add a little masala to the story in one particular case. Surely the writer could have done more justice to the story.
Second and the most profound flaw is too much of sex in the book. There is so much of unnecessary discussion and description of sex in the story that at some places one loses track of the story. Due to all the unnecessary focus on sex, a common reader may disregard the novel as “dirty” or simply read it for being dirty, and not reach beyond it to the exposure which the writer intends.
Instead of giving so much space to talking about sex, that space could have been used better to develop a louder and stronger story. Which brings me to the next obvious flaw.
The fictitious aspect of the novel or the story is not well formed. Shobha uses a technique called “stream of consciousness” wherein the writer uses the subconscious memory of the characters and time to explore and bring out the insight of the characters to the reader. However she builds a ground for a story, and then leaves it hanging. The end is abrupt and the reader is too shocked to realize it.
All in all, the book is good enough. It is written for readers who can see the bigger picture.