I have been down with flu for the last five days. But mothers of five-year-olds, with their dads out of town, usually don’t have the luxury to hit the bed because of ill health.
In my desperate bid to keep my sanity alive I snatched a book from the shelf and was trying to read a few pages, while son played with his playmate in the same room, shrieking at the top of his voice.
At that moment I felt the only person who could probably understand my predicament was the writer of the book I was holding in my hand – Twinkle Khanna.
I felt a strange camaraderie with the lady through her writing, a connection we had completely failed to establish when we had met in person more than 15 years back when she was still an actress and I was a full-time journalist.
When I went to interview her I found her very pretty, very polite and very boring with her answers (maybe that was because showbiz bored her to bits as she admits now).
The only thing about her that is sharply etched in my memory apart from her rosy cheeks was, she was reading a big fat book in between rehearsals for an English play, that she had come to perform in Kolkata.
Now when I turned the pages of Mrs Funnybones I just could not put two and two together.
The person I met was diametrically opposite to the writer here, whose vivacious, insightful, humorous personality was splashed all over the book.
She was a different woman here. The woman who could write:
“He was dating a Gujarati girl and one day in the grip of passion and wanting to emulate the West in this act, along with everything else, started spanking his girlfriend on the bottom while saying, ‘Who’s your daddy? Who’s your daddy?’
The Gujarati girl, who I assume had never played this particular game before, called out shrill, ‘Hasmukh Patel! Hasmukh Patel is my daddy!’
…..After that, each time he saw her in the buff he would visualize her father: the pudgy, bespectacled Mr Hasmukh Patel and, in despair had no recourse but to terminate their alliance.”
I was roaring with laughter when son stopped playing and asked, “What is it you are laughing about?”
I obviously could not tell him the story. I just said, “Something very funny.”
He pursued, “How funny?” I sighed.
Hearing my crackle my mom had rushed from the sitting room thinking the silver lining had finally lined my dark mood. “What are you laughing about?” she asked.
I gave her a long look. “You know Twinkle Khanna’s mom drives her exactly up the wall like you drive me. But the only difference is she is the star Dimple Kapadia and you are not.”
My mom’s face fell. I felt bad but didn’t retract my statement. She went back to her serial, increased the TV volume, her way of fortifying herself from everything around her, and gritting my teeth I went back to the arms of Mrs Funnybones, looking for solace in the similarities that played out in our chaotic lives.
But wait a minute? Are there really similarities? Or was I chasing an illusion that has been deliberately created for me or for that matter, thousands of other readers, who only keep saying one phrase in all the online reviews: “You can identify with Mrs Funnybones.”
It’s true Twinkle’s mornings start frighteningly early, she has to actually divide time between smelly diapers and son’s PTMs, deal with eccentric clients, work on deadlines, she has to be in charge at home since the man of the house is away most of time on work but what she has, I am sure, but has not mentioned in the book, is a support system – maybe a good network of professional nannies, drivers, cooks and house help, who iron out the chaos in her home, but haven’t found a mention in the book. Except for one man, who has been mentioned for the mayhem he creates and not for anything else.
Once I had told a friend, “You know Aishwarya Rai is a hands-on mom. She travels with no help, I read somewhere.”
My friend, who is also a journalist, said, “Come on don’t give me all that crap. I saw her yesterday on NDTV with her daughter and there was a lady next to them, who, it was obvious, was the help. When did you start believing in all this?”
Now when I read about Twinkle sitting at the airport getting bitten by her toddler while the man of the house kept playing with his iPad, I kept looking for a mention of the Bollywood nanny, privileged with raising star children and travelling with them, but I couldn’t find her.
I kept wondering how Twinkle managed to go on frequent business trips and spent time at trade fairs. Was the man of the house in charge then, doing all the nappy duties with élan and taking care of the prodigal son’s homework? Maybe that was her way of getting back at him for sitting around on the couch and playing with the remote, but she doesn’t mention it.
When I travelled to Delhi recently for work I had to actually do months of meticulous planning and schedule co-ordination with my man of the house (no he is not a Bollywood star. I just hope I have not lost your interest already!) so that he could be there with my son while I was gone.
Twinkle Khanna does make taking a flight somewhere leaving the kids at home as easy as one of her autorickshaw rides.
But what works with Mrs Funnybones is the voyeuristic pleasure of the realization that she’s got a house on the beach, the most handsome man in Bollywood as the husband, a perfect set of children, starry upbringing but she also grapples with the mundane realities like all of us.
Like every woman she’s got weight issues, has PMS, tries hard to be politically correct when it comes to her mom-in-law, has to go along often grudgingly with hubby’s decisions, has banging-the-head-on-the wall days at work especially while dealing with workers in an interior business, who fail to understand the importance of deadlines and professionalism and she deals with all with an unfailing sense of humour.
And this humour works all the more because it’s all played out in a star home, although, the starry details are deliberately kept out of her writing. Instead what is highlighted is the bigger chaos that ensues in a starry home. Like travelling with 11 suitcases is indeed a task but what is not mentioned is there could be 11 people to pack those.
Sometimes few of my cynical friends have wondered if Twinkle’s book is ghost written (yes this happens. The your name-my pen concept and then the money is split)
I have myself ghost written agony aunt columns in the names of stars in newspapers and (sigh!) haven’t been even paid separately for that. The star’s job began and ended with the picture and the cheque and mine went on for hours on Microsoft word. I was assured by the editor that the experience of writing on a Mrs X’s name would hold me in good stead in future.
I don’t know if that has happened but maybe it has given me the capacity to realise that Twinkle Khanna’s book is too personal and honest to be ghost written but yes, she has been given professional guidance. She has been told what works and what sells, what to keep out and what to include and that is palpable in every page.
Twinkle is a business woman herself so there is a chance she also knows what sells.
But there is always a way to know.
How I would love to be in a writing workshop with my sister-in-arms Mrs Funnybones where we would be told to write a humorous piece on a prompt and then just read it out.
Amrita Mukherjee has held full-time positions in The Asian Age, The Hindustan Times, The Times of India and has been the Features Editor at Masala! magazine in Dubai. Currently a freelance journalist, Exit Interview published by Rupa Publications is her first attempt at fiction. For more on her writing go to http://www.amritaspeaks.com.