I Kissed a Frog – tales of friendship and love

Rupa Gulab’s I Kissed a Frog is a cool book and I don’t know why I hadn’t heard about it before. Living under a rock the size of Antarctica isn’t the answer, isolation from fellow bookworms is. Not many book nerds around ergo even less bookish discussions because apparently everyone has a life. Sniff. As if I don’t. My idea of living it up is just different from most of y’all.

Never judge a book by its cover or the colour of its cover. Or its title for that matter as it is completely misleading sometimes. I am a woman but I despise Rani Pink and no, you cannot change my mind. It took awhile for me to pick it up because of my reservations. I eyed it warily in the book fair many times before picking it up and reading the blurb, then surreptitiously googling. What! I have loads of unread books and no space to keep them. I have been shallow before and bought books because I loved their covers. What will you do? Disown me and banish me from sisterhood? No can do. Once a woman always a woman (or so I have been told).

Google told me that the reverse fairy tales are supposed to funny, so picked it up, and read them first. They subvert stereotypes sure and these modern fairytales, from Rapunzel to Cinderella, were interesting but they didn’t hold my interest. They were too short to make a real impact but I loved the accompanying cartoons. I would like to read them again, preferably out loud to my sister (that is if she can stand my grating voice and is willing to waste precious time) so that we can both have a good laugh.

The stories in the book are divided into three parts – love, friendship and fairytales. As you know I read them in reverse order.

In the first section love is the theme. It has 4 stories out of which Welcome to Sisterhood and Heavy Weather stood out for me. I liked the first story Hell’s Angel too but it was predictable, the outcome I mean, but the treatment was original though exaggerated in places. It was as much about friendship as about love.  I love a guy (or girl) who is comfortable with their flab and can eat to their heart’s content, without batting an eyelid, in front of company without offering any excuses.

Love in F Major was interesting. It shows what happens in a relationship between an older man with a family and a younger woman when they decide to live-in together. Forget declarations of love, if you can at least each tolerate other and be around each other without killing each other then the relationship perhaps has a chance of surviving. She shows us how it is, warts and all deflating romantic notions but all done in good humour and for that this book is priceless.

Welcome to Sisterhood isn’t a story unlike anything I have read in the Indian context – a man undergoing a sex change operation because he has always felt like a woman inside. Antara and Ajay are buddies. Antara has had the hots for Ajay since the time they met and she thinks he will come around someday soon. All hell breaks lose when he tells her what he plans to do. The man she love doesn’t want to remain a man anymore. It has shown that people who care about us do come around and that dealing with loss, rejection and forging a new identity isn’t easy. Of all the stories the ending of Welcome to Sisterhood felt like a new beginning and I found myself wanting to read what happens next.

Heavy Weather was romcom worthy and saying anything would be giving the plot away.

In the next section the theme is friendship. In Ex-Files a girl finds an unlikely best friend in her mom while dealing with (lack of) boyfriend woes.

The diary style in which Best Friends and Boyfriends (see who comes first here)  and Diet Wars were written reminded me of Bridget Jones Diary, casual almost to the point of flippancy, but they kept me laughing so no worries. If you come between a girl and her bestie (I don’t use this term!), good luck to you.

Au Revoir deals with the impending death of a bestfriend but the treatment astonished me. What a way of looking at things.

The last story Wannabe Mum shows that there is a hell and heaven difference between wanting a baby and single-handedly bringing one up. No I am not being melodramatic, it’s a logistical nightmare, unless you have a battery of servants at your disposal.

Rupa Gulab has a good sense of humour and she doesn’t take anything seriously as far as these stories go. Do you know how rare it is for a woman in our country? Women are always supposed to maintain a decorum and always be decent simpering servile creatures without an opinion otherwise their families will lose face in society. This is a tale about urban woman where having boyfriends, sleeping around, partying and drinking isn’t judged that severely. I really like the author’s tone, it is consistent throughout the stories though sometimes it can appear too glib.

She talks about many important things but it is never shoved down your throat and is as light as a soufflé done by a master chef (Don’t ask me about it though I have never eaten one!). It’s like walking on air, full of fluff you think, but that’s deceptive.  This is a book about relationships, some would say the relationships that define us, but you will find every cliché subverted on your head here and there lies the appeal of the book. At the heart of these stories is a paean to friendship of different kinds we forge all our lives, the bond that makes our life livable.

In I Kissed a Frog marriage proposals are as easy as squeezing whipping cream. So, yes, suspension of disbelief was required in some stories. Sometimes the plot was wafer thin and I wish the stories had more depth but the emotions depicted were just right. Having said that, these stories have squashed all the romantic notions in my head, brewing over a decade, into a pulp. And I am inching closer to thirty, so this is a good thing.

Read it for the irreverent humour while I go and look for more books by Rupa Gulab. I could do with more laughter in my life.

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