It is heartening to see the recent rise of women entrepreneurs in India foraying into jewellery making, clothes and accessories, food and arts/crafts. I am honoured to personally know a few of these amazing women and they never fail to inspire me, be it their creativity, vision or persistence. ‘Many Fish to Fry’ by Abha Iyengar has at its centre one such woman – Reena Rajan. This is a story of her own aspirations as an entrepreneur and surprisingly, of another skill that she soon discovers through her encounter with a private detective Harinmoy Banerjee.
This book makes for light reading as the style of writing is extremely pleasing. Iyengar uses colloquialisms and humour in equal measure which lends a distinctive flavour to the narrative. There is a good sprinkling of Hindi words and phrases and a glossary is available in the appendix for easy reference. I particularly enjoyed the banter between Reena Rajan and Harinmoy and wanted to read more! It would be fair to say this for the rest of the novel too. I found the chapters rather brief and really wanted more to chew on! In terms of the plot, I would say there were two running in parallel – one of Reena and her journey as an entrepreneur and another one which is to do with fish! Confused? You have to read the book then, as I am not giving that away!
Whilst the book maybe classified as easy reading, it doesn’t fail to highlight a very important aspect of India’s social and cultural fabric – patriarchy. The writing was thought provoking indeed and led me to ponder - The importance placed on the birth of a son. Female foeticide. Female infanticide. Teaching your daughter that her brother is more deserving of something (food, books, outing with friends etc.) than she is. Dowry. Expecting your wife to give up work because she has to “look after the house”. Grooming young girls to grow up believing that they have to always ‘compromise’ and ‘adjust’. You get the drift. I will say no more as it will only serve to agitate me.
In conclusion, I will quote one sentence from the book which spoke to me. I am not sure whether it is my strong belief in Karma or whether it was the matter of fact tone of the character. “I have come to believe, do what you will, what you can. But you will get what you deserve. That only.”