|The New Miss India Winners 2011|
New Miss India follows the path of Anjali Bose, who uses her striking beauty and English language skills to escape from Gauripur, Bihar. After a spate of family drama, abuse by a potential suitor, and recognition of the lack of a future in her hometown, she makes her way to Bangalore. Although New Miss India is about Anjali and the historical circumstances that make it possible for her to leave her home, family, and caste relations to make a career for herself (with the possibility of making more money then her parents could have dreamed of), Mukherjee is trying to map out what it means for India and Indian female identity that call centers in places like Bangalore exist. At times she masterfully bridges both the personal and the cultural; at times it descends into good old fashioned chick lit. But we'll make that Bangalore chick lit- this story couldn't exist in London or LA.
|Mukherjee's New Book|
One of Anjali's flirtations is a columnist; his articles frame the book's major themes. He describes those who win the Miss India contest and are destined for Bollywood as rather useless, "Bollywood has no use for India's women, apart from ornamentation." These beauty-pageant-Bollywood-heroines are a totally different breed from the young women he sees flooding into Bangalore, "They don't simper, they don't dance... our torpid institutions-- like Bollywood standards of compliance-- will try to beat them down, but that train has already left the station" (189). He is looking for, and has fallen for, women like Anjali.
Although Anjali has a solid education and important friends in the right places, she primarily uses her beauty as a way to attract attention and influence people. Moreover, she sees her beauty as her greatest asset, not recognizing that her feisty character and ability to think on her feet are the two things propelling her through difficult circumstances. She is also habitually rescued by well-meaning people (mostly men). I shouldn't complain, really- I'm the one who defined this as chick lit in the first place.
But for an engaging summer read to take to the beach, this is a go-to.