Diksha Basu’s debut novel The Windfall is about Mr Jha and his family. He belongs to a middle class family and stayed in East Delhi. One fine day a website he had made was bought by an American company for $20 million. This windfall suddenly gave Mr Jha an opportunity to fulfil his ambitions. He moved to a bungalow in the wealthier and leafy neighbourhood of Gurgaon, a suburb of Delhi, abandoning the crowded apartment complexes of Mayur Palli where it was possible to overhear conversations from a neighbour’s home. He was able to buy himself a snazzy Mercedes and indulged in buying all kinds of clothes. He had a wife and a son too. Mrs Jha has a small business of ordering clothes from craftspersons and supplying them to her clients in Delhi. But once her husband had the windfall she suspended her career to help make the transition to Gurgaon. Their son, Rupak, was studying for his MBA in Ithaca University but was faring so poorly at it. He very soon returned to India without completing his degree.
The Windfall is about these socio-economic transitions that the Jha family made except moving into a neighbourhood and a culture that was as alien to them as visiting a foreign land. There are details about their acquisitions such as sofa from Japan embedded with Swarovski crystals which must be displayed however uncomfortable it is to sit upon or buying a machine to shine his shoes as seen in five star hotels only to embarassingly find it is frowned upon in the new social class Mr Jha aspires to be a part of. Yet as they discover despite trying hard to keep up with the expectations of their new neighbours these material gains do not put the Jhas at ease.
The Windfall is a readable, pleasantly told tale which starts off promisingly well for its nuanced understanding of economic relationships –many of which are starkly apparent in modern India. It is a fair start for Diksha Basu’s literary career but it is her second, probably her third book, which will be truly worth waiting for.
Diksha Basu The Windfall Bloomsbury, New Delhi, India, 2017. Pb.
11 July 2017