#58 Crapometer

Genre: Multi-cultural comedy (this is chick lit)

Nisha Desai is a young woman living in Ahmedabad, India. She has a Masters in English and a father who worships the rupee. She must get a job--Papa gets her paycheck--or get married. Papa regularly supplies horrible, horoscope-approved suitors for her and her vinegary sister Vinita. Ma rubber-stamps them.

Since her family has no influence, and little money, getting a decent teaching job is highly unlikely. Getting a decent husband, given the choices, is impossible. Failure to achieve either will mean being tossed to Papa's fundamentalist political party to do volunteer work.

Then comes a fateful phone call. A long-lost aunt living in the US is coming to visit with her two daughters. This is influence with a capital $, and Nisha sees a bright future ahead if she can impress her aunt with her need for a Green-card-holding husband or, failing that, get her aunt to bankroll further education in the US.

While cleaning the basement to make room for the visitors, Nisha finds a photograph of a nurse and two babies. This lays the groundwork for a belief on Vinita's part that they were adopted. Nisha can't convince her otherwise.

A neighbor provides Nisha with a backup plan in the form of a rich and handsome relative from America. He will be arriving in Ahmedabad soon, and the neighbor has chosen Nisha to be one of the matrimonial prospects he will interview. Nisha's fantasies take wing.

The American relatives arrive. The aunt is a New Age space case who converses with the family's neem tree, and the daughters are, respectively, a teen with a bad attitude, and an idealistic college student. Worse, Ma doesn't like her American sister. Undaunted, Nisha sets out to impress the visitors.

There are problems. The cousins and India don't mix well. Problems begin with a lack of toilet paper and move on to a lack of water as the taps go dry. The latter so incenses the older cousin that she organizes a protest. This lands the four young women in jail. Nisha sees her reputation go down the drain, but at least she's in tight with the cousins.

Released on bribe, lesson unlearned, the cousins take up the cause of a neighbor who has been rejected by a girl's parents, and teach him courtship Hollywood rom-com style.

When the family attends the wedding of Papa's boss, they are horrified to see not only the groom arriving on a white horse, but also the neighbor. A melee ensues, the lavish wedding is demolished, and the neighbor elopes on horseback with the bride. Papa is fired. Nisha and Vinita would be sleeping with the dog if the family had one. Worse, Vinita has uncovered more evidence and is truly obsessed with the adoption theory.

Poverty is gathering on the horizon when the cousins play a prank on Papa, making him think a wandering cow will bring him good fortune. The prank morphs into a religious experience when Papa and a fellow party member spread the word about the cow's magical properties. Soon crowds are arriving to buy bits of enchanted dung and tiny bottles of cow urine. People are convinced the cow is a reincarnation of Kamadhenu, a divine cow of Hindu mythology.

The business expands along with the cow's growing fame, but when Papa rashly makes a prediction that the cow will bring back the water, monsoon failure or no, Nisha sees disaster looming.

Only by blackmailing the manager of the water facility does she ensure the cow will succeed. Water arrives on time, and the rupees flow in like a river. While none of the money comes to Nisha, she feels the family will finally have influence.

Vinita has sold her computer to pay for a DNA test kit to prove parentage or a lack of it, and enlists Nisha's aid in obtaining samples. Nisha wonders if she will inherit insanity too.

The American suitor arrives, but the monsoon has made the toilet door stick, and Nisha spends several frantic minutes locked in while the suitor and his mother wait downstairs. She finally emerges a disheveled mess, and the suitor opts out.

As consolation, the cousins take Nisha to a party, the first one she's ever attended. An instant wallflower, she's rescued by a nice young man she knows from college. He offers to take her home. But he has a wolfish interior, so Nisha chooses to walk. Hours later, she arrives home drenched. Ma is infuriated, and takes it out on the aunt. The aunt announces they will be leaving in the morning. The last of Nisha's dreams crashes.

Vinita gets the results of the DNA test. They are half orphans, for while Ma is their mother, Papa isn't their father. Confronted with the evidence, Ma confesses. Papa overhears, blows up, and leaves with the cow. Free at last, Ma makes plans to live with the real father of the sisters. Vinita accuses her of being a hypocrite and moves out. Nisha watches in disbelief as the family comes apart.

Ma takes her to meet her real father, who is much nicer than Papa. He surprises her by offering her a chance to teach English in China, at wages far higher than she would get in India. Suddenly Nisha finds the future bright, if a little scary.

You had me enthralled right up to Papa not being papa. Then it was “wtf”?? I might believe one kid was a love child, but two? And this guy pops in out of left field, a rom-com version of aliens in chapter 14. Only if he is present throughout the book, even if he’s only a minor character, would this work.

I’m a total sucker for these kind of screwball comedy novels, and even more, for novels about India. If you had five good pages to lure me, I’d read this.


otto said...

Yes! I agree totally on this one. It almost reminds me of Marquez as long as the writing stands up to the plot--up to the Papa problem. Good stuff.

Rhonda Stapleton said...

I agree with Miss Snark regarding the long-lost real father - that's exactly where the synopsis lost me, too. Seems too much like a plot device.

Otherwise, GREAT story. I'd definitely read it. I was hooked the whole way through.

Bonnie Shimko said...

When you have to put an entire novel like this in almost no words, the kooky stuff seems even more over-the-top. But this story has a ton of potential. (I'm picturing the characters in Bend it like Beckham). The cultural differences alone provide gobs of room for comedy, and the accents give extra spice. (Oh, wait. I'm thinking about the movie version your agent will sell for huge bucks!)

I agree with Miss Snark about just one girl being a love child so it's believable (easy to fix).

I really love this. If I were an agent, I'd say please send!

Hope this one climbs to the top!

Bonnie Calhoun said...

The nurse with the two 'babies'... Were they twins? That would be about the only way to explain this, but it was a great story none the less.

I read all the way through and was looking for more.

Good job!

Trix said...

What everyone else said. :) And consider taking another run at the ending, both in the MS and in the synopsis.

Anonymous said...

Papa and the cow made me laugh out loud.

I would read the book and watch the movie. But agree that one love child, with a non-alien father, would be better than two.

Love it!

Elektra said...

I have to wonder--aren't there really strict laws in India about women committing adultery?

Rick said...

I also agree with Miss Snark. Chicklit, even set in India, is not the first thing I grab from the shelves, but this had me going right up till aliens showed up in the form of "real" papa.

Do I gather from the whole Aliens in Chapter 14 syndrome that a lot of plots crash and burn during final landing approach? Resolution is tough - I'm running into this in outlining my sequel.

The one other horrifying thing here is the lack of toilet paper. This is the one thing I have to try hardest to ignore in hist-fic and medievaloid fantasy. Now this writer has ruined contemporary India, too.

Anonymous said...

Love this!

Sonarbabe said...

Lack of TP? Aye caramba. Me thinks I won't be going to India any time soon.

Anyhoo, I liked this synposis (one of few that I read all the way through before looking for Miss Snark's comments. As someone who had a "Papa not being Papa" in one of her manuscripts, I must admit that two would be too far a stretch unless the children are twins. (Which was the case in mine) Other than that, not bad at all!

Anonymous said...

Love this! (with the afore-mentioned changes to only one love child and a father we've met before)

Hurry up and publish this thing - I want to buy a copy.

Could the real father be a local merchant that the mother and daughter would meet often throughout the story?

Kat said...

I don't really read chick lit. I'd read this in a heartbeat.

Anonymous said...

A catchy title is all this needs and you're almost good to go.

This is the only synopsis that I've read all the way through. You most definately have something here!

What if Papa was still Papa even after the test? Maybe Papa and his experience change his outlook on how the girls decide their own futures (and the babies are actually her cousins!). That way she learns something from her frustrating experience with him too.

Having the character development would be a way more satifying read and not so WTF.

aruna said...

I come late to this (loved it!) but need to explain on the lack of toilet paper, having lived in India. In India they use water instead! FAR cleaner, once you get used to it. The left hand is used for "that", the right hand for eating. Once you've used water you never want to use TP again.