'no onions nor garlic' is a hilarious book with a potshot on every page at Tamil Brahmins or TamBramAss as their association is called. Srividya Natarajan must be one herself to know them intimately but holds nothing barred in exposing everything from their superiority complexes to their habits in the loo.
The complicated plot which links two very different Brahmin families by means of an matrimonial ad which states 'no onion nor garlic' gets tighter and tighter until it explodes by the Marina beach. Screwing up the life of puritan Ram, Professor of English, author of Daddy, What Is The Significance of the Poonal and One Hundred Other Questions About Hinduism. , head of several Brahmin associations are Dalit-students-and -Professors-in-the-making. His own daughter Jayanthi for whom he hurriedly seeks an alliance is a rebel with an R. Son Chunky however is a true academic who presents the same paper over and over and talks everyone down.Supportive true Hindu wife Mrs.Ram has to find solace with Godman sri sri sri..
The other family with stereotyped thatha, paatti, baby Raja, anni Chitra and slowpoke brother Kicha plus eligible son Sundar and daughter Uma are managed by mother Sachu with no help from father Vaithi who looks down on all traditions.
Inbetween are a couple of Dalit youngsters who are activists and stage plays in the village of Paavai.
Paavai strikes a chord in us who watch Tamil movies as the home of Paavai Muniamma. As are digs at the Bindu paper. Since the story is set in Chennai though written from foreign shores, its very homey to us. What I liked best was all the cuss words which in my sterile life, I have little chance to hear especially since I dont live in the breeding capital, Chennai which speaks a different lingo from the rest of Tamil Nadu.
Srividya has a breezy irreverence to all, especially academia of which she must be have been a part. The style is mildly reminiscent of Wodehouse in its twist in every line.
In fact, this made me put back the book on several occasions at the library. Sometimes, too much hilarity is hard to stomach, when it never lets up. But I am glad that I did bring it back this time. Though I skipped bits, the plot is enough to keep one reading.
But the zest for life which embraces everything from the Madurai Muniyandi Vilas through koothu performances to 50 Best Jokes to Ford scholars to Seshadri Realites putting up Coromandel Gem Homes on shifty sands is the best part of it all.