Those pounds, love and peace
A clerical mistake makes Nandy Housing Cooperative become Nancy Housing Cooperative and something stems from that error and trickles down to utter dissatisfaction in the people who live there.
Right from Mrs Monalisa Das who obsesses about her son's maths marks to Meera who is bullied by her mother-in-law, Aparajita who can't seem to find a suitor and her brother. Abeer who can't get the girl of his dreams to notice him; there's Ananda with his ailing mother who has aged well before his time and Treeza whose life is a complete mess. No one in Nancy Housing Cooperative is entirely happy.
In comes Sandhya, the new-age yoga guru who has her own demons to battle in Kolkata's lanes but finds herself right in the middle of this chaotic mêlée. And The Weight Loss Club comes into being. While it is wrong to connect unhappiness and dissatisfaction in life to excess weight, the people who become happy members of Sandhya's entourage over the Durga Puja season seem to be quite at peace with the idea.
Aparajita (Apu) is ordered by her aunt to get in shape before the 'phoren-return' suitor comes to see her - 'Shona, for the boy in Chicago, you must lose ten kilos. At least eight...it is a matter of my prestige.'
Ananda Bose is avoided by almost all other residents, they have no time for his philosophical banter, 'Ananda Bose was the colony bore - this was widely accepted knowledge...nobody knew how old he really was but he called himself "a confirmed bachelor"... the colony people mostly avoided him if they could do so politely..."Last three times I avoided him, so this time it's hello," they would reason to themselves and engage in conversation with him (It was mostly about his mother's bedsores.)'
Apu's brother Abeer is happier immersed in his Mafia Wars trade-offs and his jaunts in JU rather than his fancy air-conditioned college. But his college has Mandakini Mondal (Mandy), his grey-eyed object of affection; and as luck would have it - Mandy is not 'interested' in the 'friendly-looking fat guy'. Treeza and John have their own pasts to battle while Meera has her present.
The Weight Loss Club has something for everyone, just as the book does. Author Devapriya Roy delves in affectionate excesses glimpses of Kolkata that appeal to all NRKs (Non-residential Kolkatans. Duh!) -Flury's, haggling at Gariahat, over-bearing aunties, the anglo-Indian community and their parties and food. Roy doesn't romance the food, but it is intrinsic to her story, especially the tea - even if it is fancy lemongrass flavoured. Roy's book doesn't have one protagonist and that is perhaps another good thing about it.
Stories weave in and out just as lives do on the floors of Nancy Housing Complex. Narrative voices shift as lives get intertwined in an attempt to live better. It is just that simple. The saadhvi has no big preachy messages to dole out, her reactions and lessons are practical and regular. The deep introspection she keeps for herself. Sounds much like a clichéd forward that once did rounds on Facebook - the one who laughs the most is perhaps the saddest inside (or something like that) - Sandhya's life itself is her biggest lesson, but the people in Nancy don't need that yet. They have easier battles.
Should you read the book - we say you should. Will you relate to it? You need not - but you will surely enjoy it.