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Book Review: ‘Happy Endings’ By Minita Sanghvi Is A Thorough Entertainer

As such, this book is a thorough entertainer. As noted previously, it moves like a typical rom-com Bollywood story.

Minita Sanghvi teaches marketing, gender, and politics at the Management and Business Department of Skidmore College, USA. Happy Endings (HarperCollins Publishers 2022) is her debut novel that’s a Bollywood-esque tale of a lesbian couple Krishi and Mahi, centralising queer experiences. While the former is a Booker-nominated author, the latter is a popular actress, much loved by the country and the prime minister alike.

The story features another gay couple, but revealing the same would be giving away too much. So, as such, let’s bring back the attention to the lesbian protagonists of the book. They grew up together, but it was far easier for Krishi to come out to her mother compared to Mahi, whose mother didn’t allow her to be with the love of her life and made it impossible for them to even bid each other farewell when Krishi was moving to the United States.

While Krishi was enjoying the success of her writing career and was invited to the Big B Book Award ceremony, as she was one of the contenders for the same, she accidentally meets Mahi during her journey back to her home in Mumbai, India.

But over the years, learning that Mahi is in a relationship with the hottest actor in the tinsel town, Kabeer, she develops hatred and disgust for her. She perhaps isn’t able to fathom the fact of how easily her childhood love slipped into heteronormativity. But, on the other hand, she seems fully cognisant of the fact that it’s difficult to bag crucial roles and be accepted by the queerphobic movie industry in India. Their interaction during the flight and later doesn’t help overcome the differences between them, but it’s clear that they are both still in love with each other, and that the intimacy was too obvious to be concealed by the paparazzi at the Big B Book Award ceremony.

In this 300-odd-page long book, one thing leads to the other during the time they spend together while Krishi is in Mumbai, but Krishi’s current girlfriend of six months Allie also joins her partner and eventually goes on to play a crucial role in this narrative whose principal conflict is not only the kind of reconciliation that several queer people in this story needs but also the fact that how despite the decriminalisation of homosexuality and the slowly changing attitude towards queer people nothing seems to cement the fact that what two (or many) people call the special feeling they share to be love is invariably the same and as natural and organic as is the case with heterosexual couples.

Sample these comments that Krishi finds on social media on the post of her Big B Book Award win: “Lesbians just need a good fuck” and “She should die in hell”. Though I am sure Sanghvi wanted to supply them in the narrative to demonstrate hate, I believe everyone deserves a good fuck, and to fuck with trolls.

As such, this book is a thorough entertainer. As noted previously, it moves like a typical rom-com Bollywood story. It could have used better editing for sure though. But it’s the sheer cast of interesting characters in this book, including the pivotal role that Krishi’s mother plays and the director Karan Raichand — perhaps modelled on Karan Johar? — and even a teenager Anaya plays in the book, which makes it a joy to read.

And the way intimacy between the main characters is conveyed, be it their love for baingan ka bharta or the nakhras and manaoing games they play between themselves is heartfelt and so delicious. Everything here may remind queer people of their present or ex-lovers. Reading this book will definitely be like “slipping into an old T-shirt”, as the author notes describing a beautiful moment in the book. Therefore, amidst a glut of queer narratives focusing on male queerness, this novel’s focus on lesbian experiences is more than welcome. I wish this tribe is cherished much more, but it’s all the more necessary that such books are edited well enough to produce an error-free literary outcome.

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Saurabh is working as a writer in a research and advisory IT consultancy firm. He frequently writes about gender and sexuality, and book reviews on an array of platforms.
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Saurabh Sharma

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