Book Review: 50 Cups of Coffee by Khushnuma Daruwala

Book Name: 50 Cups of Coffee: The Woes and Throes of Finding Mr Right

Author: Khushnuma Daruwala

Publisher: Penguin

Rating: 5/5

Book Blurb: A rip-roaring and charming account of dating in India. Dating is an undeniably daunting task, especially when you are looking for the real deal to settle down with. So when Dia, a 30-something woman, signs up on a dating website for people looking to get married, she realizes just how delightful, vexing, amusing and befuddling looking for the perfect husband can be. Based on her real-life experiences, this book is not a guide to dating, but rather a delightful collection of meeting potential partners, epiphanies about them and soul-searching questions that will make you see relationships without your rose-tinted glasses of love.

Particularly pertinent to this age of online dating, hilarious, honest and witty, this delicious-as-a-cappuccino book is for all those looking for love, in love or in between. With advice as sage (gained the hard way) as that in He’s Just Not That Into You and scenarios as funny and outrageous as those in Sex and the City, 50 Cups of Coffee is the perfect book to curl up with when a suitable bae is not available.

Review: As a reviewer, am used to receiving badly written novels that are currently the fad in India, the revolution started by some B school graduates who decided to write novels because- well because all innovative ideas in India must come from IIT’s or IIM’s. Or perhaps all bad innovative ideas must come from IIT’s and IIM’s. I can’t recall the last time they invented anything more noteworthy than the Reva car and even that didn’t take off.

So to save myself, I rarely accepted offers from first-time authors who approached us on our own saying they’d penned down a novel and how some equally rubbish magazine had called it the next great literary novel from India. This is why we prefer requests from publishers unless you are really good; which if you are then why self-publish?

So imagine my surprise when I received Fifty Cups of Coffee written by some Khushnuma Daruwalla. The only other Parsi columnist I know of was one Bachi Karkaria whom I read as a student and because she was the only one who was readable in the otherwise useless Times of India newspaper. Is Rohinton Mistry Parsi? What is it with these writerly brothers me thinks! All highly paid writers have one other mediocre, writer brother these days, the one who writes rubbish but makes more money. But I must check if Rohinton is Parsi (makes mental note) for if he is, then I have read two Parsi authors. Yay!

I wasn’t expecting a novel that would move me but this one did. Fifty Cups of Coffee is a delightful, tongue in cheek take on the Indian dating scene. I know it sounds clichéd but she’s managed to write it the way books are meant to be written, in good English (that’s rare these days). A note from the author explaining that names have been changed to protect identities (a must have because we don’t want any court cases in this great tolerant country of ours) and a promise that she had used humour (ah! ‘Humour’, my long lost deity) was all I had. A very long train ride to my hometown meant I could read it at leisure and surprisingly, it didn’t let me down.

The title alludes to the fifty cups of coffee the writer’s friend had with prospective dates to find a prospective love interest- to marry. Well, because to find somebody to marry is the new national Indian ‘pastime’ or maybe it was always so- started by the great Vikram Seth and we fellow mortals are only now taking note of it.

Anyhow, to cut a long review short, the author’s friend meets fifty people and each one is quite a character in his own right which makes for a humorous read. We have mommy pampered, adult men who somehow can manage a banking job but can’t manage their own life. But Khushnuma puts it more elegantly so I will quote her, “While the Mummy Virus is a global epidemic, the condition in the Asian subcontinent is significantly worse.”

Khushnuma fulfilled her promise and so we have gems like-

“To date, Branden Fraser and Rachel Weisz are the only ones who’ve successfully taken on the Mummy, so you can stop the wishful thinking.”

Or sample this:

“As the elders say, when all else fails, pray. ‘Dear Fairy godmother, No more fancy balls, tiaras, glass slippers or pumpkin coaches. Men, I can’t understand. Women, I do. So please let me wake up a lesbian tomorrow morning…”

There is a hint of a plot but who cares! Khushnuma’s beautiful writing and structured sentences are a literary delight (how I miss the good old Seth and Rushdie days!). She’s also perfect at humour but it’s not in your face kind of crass stuff, it’s all subtle and full of puns. She’s like the Indian P.G.Wodehouse (why the hell did I read P.G.Wodehouse when I was young? Maybe I was too poor to afford a cell phone).

To find out everything about the prospective partner, she even resurrects her personal detective agency- P&D Associates that she had co-founded with Poppy (not flower but a person).

P&D has had to solve such mind-boggling cases:

“Why would a guy post a pic from which he has oh-so carefully cropped out the girl he is snuggling up to, cheek to cheek, on a matrimonial portal?

Before I forget, each chapter starts with some pearls of wisdom- I love it when authors do this! It only goes to show how good this book is and how the writer has turned a seemingly clichéd subject into a novel work of art purely on the basis of her superior writing skills. There is perfect English, hilarious circumstances, structured sentences and puns, frequent references to TV shows and contemporary media that we all follow. She’s mixed it all up (a bit hap-hazard) but you will barely even notice since everything else is perfect.

But we must return to the book- she keeps running into opposites and so she meets Mr. Glutton and Mr. Starve. Tries speed dating but to no avail. Since she is in her thirties, it’s all the more difficult to find the ideal man. You cannot help sympathizing with the quintessential urban Indian single woman!

She gets supremely annoyed when even her best friend, Poppy bails out on her and announces her marriage. What is it with this best friend thing! Why must women be like- “If I am not getting a man, nobody’s getting a man!” But that is how our protagonist is and sympathize more we must and wish her luck in her noble quest. She is an optimist and this quality alone is endearing enough.

I don’t want to give out the plot so go read it. Khushnuma deserves a badge or some award in the ‘Good Writing Hall of Fame’ if this world has one. Only Khushnuma, with her supreme talent, superior writing skills, and hawkish observation skills could have penned down this hilarious masterpiece. In Fifty Cups of Coffee, she manages to score brilliantly on all measures of a reader’s Un-great Expectations!

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