Excess Baggage – Book Review
Excess Baggage – Book Review
Book: Excess Baggage
Author: Richa S. Mukherjee
Reviewed By: Manas Mukul
Publisher: Black Ink(22 Dec 2020)
Pages: 328 (Paperback)
Price: 299 INR
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
My rating: 3.5/5
I always advocate if two people want to understand (read test) their bond in a better manner they should take a trip together. It is like putting best friends together as roommates and you know what happens next. Excess Baggage by Richa S. Mukherjee is a coming of age story of a mother-daughter duo, which embarks on a trip to Europe together.
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About the Author
Richa is a poet, ex-journalist and an old hand in the advertising industry, all of which she bade farewell to write books about imaginary people. After writing a collection of poems titled A Penchant for Prose, largely for herself, she went on to write her first novel, I Didn’t Expect to be Expecting, a light-hearted take on accidental pregnancy and Kanpur Khoofiya Pvt. Ltd, a humorous thriller that has been procured for a screen adaptation. She has been a TOI Write India winner, is a blogger and travel writer.
The cover page has a boarding pass like image in the centre with two cartoonish female figures carrying their luggage as if about to board a flight. It is catchy and very consistent with the story. The title, Excess Baggage, too is apt and smartly chosen – firstly for the excess baggage that they end up carrying on their flight and significantly for the emotional baggage that they had been carrying for over years. The back cover has the blurb along with a testimonial and a tag line – Get ready for a mother of a summer, although the book was released in December.
Excess Baggage is a story of two Punjabis who are Sindhis by faith. Anviksha Punjabi is in the middle of a second divorce, who snaps at friends and family, stays with her mother and frequently gets into trouble at work. Smita Punjabi, her mother, is a sixty-seven-year-old mother who designs clothes, loves to cook food, is always surrounded by her clan of neighbourhood aunties, is stereotypical and judgemental and at the same time pretty vocal about her views.
Other minor characters include Anviksha’s two ex’s – Rudra and Ranvijay, who keep alternating between chapters, Aakash, her humorous and friendly colleague who is always ready with good pieces of advice and suggestions, her cousin Preeti and two dogs – Mutton and Bhindi.
Anviksha notices a certain bitterness brewing in her and wants to get a hold of her temperamental behaviour before things get out of hand. After watching a rerun of Zindagi Milegi Na Dobara, she decides to take a solo trip across Europe. Smita Punjabi, being the overprotective mother, coaxes her daughter to take her along. The trip begins by the time you reach seventy-odd pages but the writer takes this opportunity to give a brief background into the lives of the Punjabi ladies.
From here on in it is a roller coaster ride where Anviksha snaps at most of the comments her mother makes and how this bitter-sweet journey helps them to mend their past and forge a renewed bond.
Some of the best lines
“When the past sears the skin too deep, one can never be the same.”
“They say you fight only when you love or care enough, that’s not true. You also fight when your hearts are empty.”
Humour is by far the biggest strength of Richa. Even in her earlier work it stands out and this one is laced with humour all along and at times the self-deprecating kind too. The banter between the duo is pretty relatable to any middle-class Indian household. The character sketching is nuanced.
The pace is good with lucid style written in the third person. The dull moments are less and the vocabulary is pretty good which aids in it being a fast read. The mother-daughter relationship is the backbone and Richa masterfully weaves that making it too relatable.
Since the build-up is long it gives a deep insight into the minds of the characters and by the time you reach the middle of the book you begin to predict the responses and jibes that both of them throw at each other. It gives a repetitive feel to it. In a soul-searching journey, I was looking for a little more life-altering gyaan.
I would like to add that I am a thirty-plus guy living with my mother, who is a Sikh, who loves to cook, who has a huge clan of neighbourhood aunties and who is always ready with her sarcasm. Hence I could very well relate to many of the scenarios that Richa showcased.
It is a light-hearted, funny, fast paced story about a mother-daughter duo who undertakes a trip across Europe and in the process tries to understand each other better and eventually rediscovering themselves. I am going with three and a half stars for Richa S. Mukherjee’s Excess Baggage. This is a perfect weekend light read and I won’t be surprised if this one too gets a screen adaptation.
Manas ‘Sameer’ Mukul
If you love what I write I have recently published my first Poetry book – ‘You, Me & The Universe’ – Poems on the Conspiracies of the Universe. You can order the book and find more details HERE
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