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POLITE SOCIETY

— JASMEEN DUGAL

There is an underlying thread of darkness in Mahesh Rao's 'Polite Society,' beyond the seemingly simple re-imagining of Jane Austen's Emma, set in today's gilded age. It is 'Emma' in its essence, and through her eyes, the author aspires to hold up a mirror to the lives of people residing in Lutyen Delhi.

 

If you're expecting a no-holds-barred racy narrative… don't buy the book! Here, Emma, or Ania Khurana, is a native of ''Prithviraj Road, rather than Delhi.'' The author narrates, 'The older rich had ways of perturbing the newer rich.  A direct snub would be too foolhardy, given the unpredictable places where political influence now rose. So they shut them with ambiguity, glances shot across the table, a stifled smile, all the signs of a beautifully preserved way of life!' Money — its presence or pretence — shapes Lutyen's Delhi. In fact, money and marriage are key concepts in the novel, portrayed as mere steps either up or down the social order. 'He was flooded with disappointment when their minicab pulled up outside her parents' home. She had often referred to the place as their 'manor' and it was only now that he realised that she might have been being playful, or duplicitous.'

 

Closing the book, I personally felt 'Polite Society' was a slow-paced read of a subject that's been done to death, but that's just my viewpoint. Perhaps I'm being a little jaded. Jane Austen's Emma gave author Mahesh Rao the framework within which he deftly explored the concepts of money, marriage and social mobility. The other aspect of the book is that the broader theme offers the author opportunities for departure from the original plot to make the narrative more relevant to the millennial reader.

 

Polite Society: By Mahesh Rao

Penguin Random House India

Rs 599

 

Polite Society
Polite Society
 
07-SEPTEMBER-2018
 
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