March 1, 2011

BOOK REVIEW: 'The Diary Of A Social Butterfly' by Moni Mohsin

 This is the first book I read from this author and it made me seek out her earlier book 'The End of Innocence' which is a very different one from the book I'm currently going to talk about. I was hoping it would be kind of the same and was a bit disappointed to note that it was more of the serious types (I don't know why!) but glad the author came up with a sequel to this fabulous read.
'The Diary of a social butterfly' by Moni Mohsin, one of Pakistan's most celebrated columnists is a humorous satire in a noveau rich female's voice. Moni Mohsin, who was in Mumbai some weeks back to promote her new book 'Tender hooks' (which is a sequel to this one and marks the return of the Butterfly), shaped this book in the 90s in a column in Lahore's Friday Times. The book is a collection of these columns, wittily put together from 2001 to 2008.
The period covers a lot of turmoil in Pakistan including wars, militarization, the 9/11 incident, the President's US dilemma, earthquake, emergency rule, Benazir Bhutto's assassination and fundamentalist policies. It is almost difficult to believe that anyone can extract humor out of it in a light-hearted manner.The lead character Butterfly Khan sounds like a desperate-to-showoff kind of a wife, who thinks that her husband aka 'Janoo' (as she likes to call him), is dheela (No, his name is not dheela...dheela ki jawaani and whether he's sexy or not... ah!) While describing him she says "You say even one small thing and he corrupts like a volcano." 
Butterfly's use of the English language is really interesting and throws up quite a few innuendos. The most hilarious one I found consists of Butterfly describing her mother-in-law's (The Old bag's) angina attack as vagina attack. The real highlight of the book is the way Butterfly interprets Pakistan's inner turmoil and political pressures. She talks about the Taliban in an almost dismissive manner and the most important thing on her mind if they come to power is that her foreign trips would be cut off. She shops as Harrod's in London and renames some of the most popular brands in the world to suit herself and she does not limit herself to just brands, goes on to include her family members as well. She believes she is the limelight of every part and a page three star. She lives in her own sweet world, surrounded by like-minded friends (Floozie, Mulloo and Dropsy), husband (Janoo), son (Kulchoo), sister-in-laws (Gruesome Twosome) and of course her mother-in-law (The Old bag). Not to forget Aunty Pussy (I'm serious and no, there is no Uncle Dick before you get any ideas of your own!)
Sometimes you end up wondering the actual reason behind Janoo marrying Butterfly but you are glad he did because this ends up giving you some of the most hard-hitting scenes in the book which I cannot go in further for fear of spoiling the story. Janoo is more interested in the world and his business but shahtoosh shawls and foreign shopping trips are the only thing on Butterfly's mind.
“Janoo tau, bechara, bilkul hi crack ho gaya. All day now he spends reading international news on things on the Inner Net,”she says when her husband is keeping track of the ravaging war. Butterfly comes across as a fresh change after Bridget Jones or even the Shopaholic series. Kudos to Butterfly for being so confident despite her shortcomings and hats-off to the author for creating such an identifiable character because I'm sure you've seen people who are at least fifty percent like this memorable house-wife (and no, I'm not talking about Savitha bhabhi :P) Read this one for Butterfly's charming voice and amazingly dumb wit and her literal grinding of the English language which gives us locutions like 'proper-gainda' and 'what cheeks!' I can't miss the next one for sure. As for this one, deserves a more than decent 4.5/5!

Get it from Flipkart.



yasho said...


I read both Diary and Tender hooks and found the first one more hilarious. The sequel is just more of it and I had the feeling it was more packaged for India and trying to bring about justifications and 'feel-good' at the end, sort of smug stuff...but Butterfly is certainly in her elements.

I felt a slight 'K factor' aka Ekta Kapoor at work in Tenderhooks...but its certainly enjoyable and a one sit read...the Diary is still my favourite of Mohsin's works, the malapropisms and spoonerisms are brilliantly woven into really political issues and made me see the normal Pak citizen in an empathetic way.

Here is my review of The Diary of a Social Butterfly written a year or so ago...

Faraaz Kazi said...

I must admit your review is better than mine :)I'm yet to read 'Tender hooks' and yes, so far the feedback that I've heard keeps the first one better than the second one. There is an underlying message there, one of acceptance and fate that Mohsin has tried to capture.

Anonymous said...

Nice review, Nice blog.

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