Chosen by Farhana
I've never been to a destination wedding before and, er, I probably won't be going to one any time soon. However, Diksha Basu's champaign cocktail of a novel, Destination Wedding was the book that I didn't know I needed right now. I read it in the middle of a Covid-related lockdown, and the novel's mix of identity exploration, family love/craziness, female friendships, glitzy wedding functions, fun and flirtations, all with an up-to-the-minute contemporary flavour, was just the tonic for these pandemic days. This is commercial fiction, with bite.
The story focuses on weary TV producer Tina Das, from New York and of Indian heritage, who has recently broken up with her boyfriend and is contemplating a bruised heart and a string of rejected reality TV show ideas as she flies off to Delhi for her cousin Shefali's glamorous wedding. However, the trip is not quite the distraction that Tina is hoping for, especially when everyone else's love lives, including that of her own divorced mum and dad, seem to be faring far better than hers.
As Tina takes stock of her life while trying to rediscover the ‘real’ India for herself, one of the novel’s strengths is the way that it weaves in multiple other characters and stories, which are all brilliantly realised. For example, some of the figures that Tina meets during her trip only pop up once in the novel, but leave a big impression. Take, for instance, the random man who sneaks into one of the wedding functions and joins the queue to rub yellow/turmeric paste on Shefali, or rather to ‘feel her up!’ as the suspicious and outraged bride puts it. Or, take the resourceful homeless couple who manage to pinch some small items from Tina while she’s out for a moonlit stroll on the wrong side of the tracks with a potential love interest.
In addition to this almost Dickensian cast of characters, Diksha Basu’s writing taps into very modern concerns about emotional, personal and spiritual fulfilment in a world full of constant demands on our time, but still full of the expectation to settle down and live marrily-ever-after if you’re a South Asian woman who has grown up in the West. Tina is clearly an accomplished young woman with a great career in her own right, but her thoughts and experiences during the trip thus also challenge what’s expected of someone in her position.
In short, if you’re looking for a very readable and fun novel that also explores identity, family and relationships in a modern and nuanced way, then we recommend Destination Wedding.