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The Windfall by Diksha Basu

The Windfall (2017)

by Diksha Basu

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1323791,104 (3.84)12
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This entertaining novel of family life and social mores in modern India has less of a spotlight on romance than Jane Austen’s books, but if Austen was applying her sly wit and acute powers of observation to contemporary New Delhi rather than Regency England she might write something like The Windfall. The story is centered on the recently rich Jha family and the ways all that money is changing their lives and perspectives. One result of there being less focus on romance than in, for instance, Pride and Prejudice, is that Diksha Basu gives readers more page time with a wealth and status obsessed version of Mr. Collins and his patient more sensible wife, than she does with any Elizabeth and Darcy or Jane and Bingley type characters, and I would have liked to read more about Mrs. Ray, a widowed friend of Mrs. Jha. But that’s not to say this book didn’t keep me reading until late into the night. Besides being the funniest novel I’ve read in a long time, I really enjoyed briefly inhabiting a world I don’t know a lot about.

I read an advanced review copy of this book supplied to me at minimal cost by the publisher. Review opinions are mine. ( )
  Jaylia3 | Sep 6, 2017 |
I love a good comedy of manners. A little social satire mixed with a light romantic comedy is the perfect pick-me-up between more weighty tomes. And I loved Diksha Basu's first novel The Windfall. It was a delightful read that had me laughing out loud, calling out, "listen to this one!"

Mr. Jha has sold his website for an $20 million and after two years has decided it was time to be "movin' on up" to a modern home in a posh upscale neighborhood.

For twenty-five years The Jha family has lived in an apartment building with the same neighbors with whom they have their little tiffs and warm friendships. But why wash in a bucket with a cup when they can have walk-in showers? It is time to buy toilet paper and install squirting water guns near the toilet. Mr. Jha has caught the conspicuous wealth bug, buying a Mercedes and ordering a Swarovski-studded couch. He wants to live according to their income.

Mrs. Jha is content with their old life. She enjoyed her job seeking our craftpersons and promoting their traditional hand crafted items. She sees no need to put aside her bucket and cup or to wear flashy diamonds. She is glad their son Rupak in America is studying for an MBA; she wants him to be a self-made man like his father. His family does not know that Rupak is failing his classes and is conflicted over having an American girlfriend, believing his parents would disapprove.

When Mr. Jha meets their new neighbor Mr. Chopka it sets off a war of who has the best toys. Mr. Jha is driven to assume the lifestyle of the wealthy, and Mr. Chopka needs to keep proving he is on the top rung of the ladder.

At first Mr. Chopka assumes Mrs. Jha is the maid, and later when the Jhas are at the Chopka home the maid appears dressed similar to Mrs. Jha! Mrs. Chopka is addicted to her iPad and Angry Birds, and thinks nothing of loosing a diamond earring.

I loved the characters. And I especially loved Mr. Jha's inner dialogs. He ponders the summer Delhi heat and wonders, "what was the point of all this new money if he couldn't escape the blistering midday temperatures? It should be possible, Mr. Jha thought, to have a small portable air conditioned Plexiglas cubical built to walk around in." He imagines a portable cooled environment, "perhaps with wheels. But then that would be a car."

The Jha's old neighbor Mrs. Ray meets Mr. Chopka's brother. The Jha's old neighbors the Guptas are pushing their niece, also studying in America, to meet up with Rupak. Mrs. Ray and Rupak struggle with convention, expectation, and love as they weigh their choices.

Through the Jha family I learned about modern India, the old and the new, the class struggle, and the battle between the West and traditional for the souls of its youth. It is a very funny novel about issues that are universal, while also allowing Westerners to appreciate and better understand Modern India.

I received a free book through Blogging for Books in exchange for a fair and unbiased review. ( )
  nancyadair | Aug 31, 2017 |
I fall into novels set in India, and those populated by Indian characters, as comfortably as I snuggle into my couch, knowing what’s to follow and just how much I’m going to relax and enjoy the journey. I have been to Tamil Nadu and have met such wonderfully warm friends and their families, and I can hear their voices and their laughter in most of the Indian novels I’ve devoured. A standard trope is how the father, to save face, must appear to be the family CEO, when really it’s the mom and her ambitions for her children that drive many households.

In this novel, the Jha family’s fortunes have risen so rapidly, as a result of Mr. Jha’s sale of software he created, that they must ascend from their humble neighborhood, full of sounds and scents from every wide open window, to an elegant upscale Delhi air conditioned enclave where no one walks outdoors except for the driveway guards. Mrs. Jha is more concerned with son Rupak, who is pretending to be achieving honors in his MBA studies in the US but has actually fallen for an American girl who sees through his line of shit and still wants to meet his parents.

The Jha family quest to keep up with the Chopras, and the bonus of a romance for a lovely young widow from the old neighborhood, are all generous fodder for this comedy of manners. Jane Austen would be delighted. ( )
  froxgirl | Aug 13, 2017 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
This is an ER book. Mr. and Mrs. Jha, a middle-aged East Delhi couple living in a somewhat claustrophobic middle class housing complex, suddenly become wealthy when Mr. Jha sells his successful website. That allows them to move to a more upscale neighborhood where houses have gates and guards, and those living there are actively pretentious. Mr. Jha wants to put on the ritz to keep up with these Joneses, most notably with a profoundly uncomfortable couch covered in Swarovski crystals. Mrs. Jha is uncomfortable with all the excess. Their son is at Ithaca College in New York, failing his courses and mixed up between a knockout blonde, and a lovely young woman from Delhi who shares attributes with his mother. He loves the blonde, but is afraid to tell his parents about her, and he can't decide what to do with his life.

There is a sweet romance between a middle-aged widow and widower that was my favorite part of the book - I could have done with more of that.

This is a comedy of manners that spoofs current Indian life, and the dilemmas brought on by that society's changes. It's clever and often very funny. Unfortunately, I was the wrong reader for it - it is filled with characters obsessively worried about how they are perceived by others. The uselessness of that is driven home, but it's a ride I wouldn't have chosen to take. ( )
  jnwelch | Aug 12, 2017 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Windfall is the story of the Jha’s, who live in East Delhi in India. Mr. Jha has just sold his website for 20 million dollars. The Jha’s are moving out of their middle class neighborhood, where they have lived for decades, to a rich suburb. This turns out to more of a culture shock than either of them could have imagined. Mr. Jha becomes involved in a very intense “keeping up with the Jones’s” battle with his new neighbors, the Chopras. He is frantically trying to learn how to be a “real” rich person. Mrs. Jha, on the other hand, feels almost guilty about becoming wealthy and leaving her friends in the old neighborhood behind. She is reluctant to give up her old ways. For instance, she still take bucket baths, even though the new house has an actual shower.

Ms. Basu writes as if the reader has a basic working knowledge of India and Indian culture. I read quite a bit of Indian literature so I didn’t have a problem understanding anything (with the exception of a bath mug vs. toilet paper. (I found some very interesting YouTube videos about that!) An average reader may have to look up a few words, but nothing that would be consequential to understanding the overall story.

After reading Windfall, I totally get the comparisons to Crazy Rich Asians. The Jha’s aren’t billionaires but they are new money and adjusting to it in a funny and often ostentatious way. The conversations Mr. Jha and Mr. Chopra have in which they try and one-up each other are cringe worthy. Poor Mr. Jha.

I love both books set in India and comedies of manners. Windfall is the perfect combination of the two – making it just the right book for me! If you’re looking for your next summer read, put Windfall on your list. ( )
1 vote mcelhra | Jul 24, 2017 |
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To my parents and their parents
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Mr. Jha had worked hard, and now he was ready to live well.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0451498917, Hardcover)

A heartfelt comedy of manners for readers of Seating Arrangements and Crazy Rich Asians, Diksha Basu’s debut novel unfolds the story of a family discovering what it means to be nouveau riche in modern India. Hilarious and wise, The Windfall illuminates with warmth and charm the precariousness of social status, the fragility of pride, and, above all, the human drive to build and share a home. Even the rich, it turns out, need to belong somewhere.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 06 Feb 2017 19:47:08 -0500)

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