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Review: Pyjamas Are Forgiving by Twinkle Khanna

Set in an Ayurveda spa in Kerala, Twinkle Khanna’s bestselling Pyjamas Are Forgiving looks at love, life and what it means to be a strong contemporary woman with a rare combination of humour and seriousness

books Updated: Oct 27, 2018 12:19 IST
Sonal Kalra
Sonal Kalra
Hindustan Times
love,Ayurveda,ghee
Author and film producer Twinkle Khanna with author Amish Tripathi at the Hindustan Times Leadership Summit at Taj Palace in New Delhi on October 5, 2018. (Vipin Kumar/HT PHOTO)

sonal.kalra@hindustantimes.com

374pp, Rs 325; Juggernaut

They say don’t judge a book by its cover. They, thankfully, don’t forbid you from getting intrigued by a cover that has what looks like a flying bottle of ghee, a pooja thali and a young woman somersaulting in a white pyjama suit. So you go on to open author Twinkle Khanna’s latest, Pyjamas are Forgiving and the point where intrigue gives way to a delicious immersion of thought, becomes a blur. Set in Kerala’s Shanthamaaya, the evil cousin of all that we perceive a spa to be, the story of a 40-something divorced woman, Anshu, who has signed up for a 28-day rejuvenation therapy but goes through a lifetime of conflicting emotions in those four weeks, grips you tighter as you navigate through the initial chapters. But then it startles you with a jolt at the point when Anshu’s ex-husband, Jay, joins the ayurveda treatment along with the nubile, dim-witted Shalini, his present wife. Her portrayal is a bit of a cliché, but you’re far more smitten by Anshu’s ever ready wit and wisdom to pay attention. The story goes on to narrate Anshu’s roller-coaster ride of myriad emotions at having to come to terms with her ex’s presence in such close proximity.

The wit is, by now, quite a trademark of Khanna’s writings, what with her newspaper column - expectedly laced with a smattering of urbane humour - being appointment-reading for many on Sundays. Where the book takes it to another level, though, is in the sensitive juxtaposition of humour with poignancy. The protagonist, Anshu, comes across as a quintessential modern woman with a tough exterior, armed with quick, inventive comebacks, and I-let-my-rules-rule-my-life kind of an attitude. At the same time, you see endearing glimpses of her vulnerability, her cloak of self-deprecation, her complexes about her body and her very relatable self-doubt when the sight of her ex still makes her go weak in the knees.

Anshu’s character in the book is surrounded by an army of side-artists who are co-habitants of the Shanthamaaya sanctuary, and the author doesn’t really delve too much into the depth of each, perhaps for good reason. The one that stands out for the significance it has in taking the story forward is that of Jenna, the reticent performance-artist who invokes Anshu’s protective streak, and eventually becomes a cause for the latter’s self awakening.

Read more: The many faces of Mrs Funnybones

The backdrop of Pyjamas are Forgiving lends quite an amusing insight into the regimentation prevalent at Ayurveda centres meant to cure patients of their ‘doshas’, or imbalanced energies. The description of the regimen, right from the ghee drinking spree to purgation a la bowel cleansing can draw chuckles or shudders, depending on your faith in alternative remedies. The author doesn’t impose or endorse views where this is concerned, she simply states it like it is, but with much fun. The doctors at Shanthamaaya, and their amusing mannerisms, therefore, become fairly natural parts of the storytelling which is at its best here. At times you get so absorbed in enjoying the banter between the patients, and the way they are dealing with the gruelling regimen, that you forget that chapters are passing and the story isn’t really moving forward. And then it does, taking the reader suddenly from the upper layer of an easy, fun read down to the core – to the seriousness of choices that Anshu now needs to make. It is also here that the very relevant and topical issue of a woman’s right to choice and consent comes up in the narrative. The sentence, “Blame is a bullet that the world fires at an already wounded victim” beautifully sums up a situation in the story - just as it would, for all that’s making news these days.

Pyjamas are Forgiving is a story worth knowing; Anshu is a woman worth knowing. Because at some level, most readers can relate to the mind-webs she, and millions like her, have to cope with. At some point in the book, Twinkle Khanna mentions the ‘pinholes of joy leaking out’ in Anshu’s life at Shanthamaaya. That phrase can be used to sum up one’s overall experience of reading this book. You begin it with a chuckle, you end it with a smile – and somewhere in between, the pinholes of joy beautifully leak out.

First Published: Oct 26, 2018 17:29 IST