When The Diary of a Social Butterfly, a collection of Moni Mohsin‘s tongue-in-cheek peppy pieces came out in 2008, the journalist-cum-author acquired quite an unprecedented following among the readers in India. The write-ups were her former columns with the Friday Times, a National weekly in Pakistan. Her hilarious social commentary on Pakistani high society, camouflaged in the chutney-talk narrative of ‘Butterfly’, a socialite, was no mere light stuff, although it appeared to be so at first glance. It was perceptive to the core and reflected the concerns of the educated citizen in Pakistan; a view not easily accessible to one living outside the country. Well, the Bridget Jones of Pakistan is back with a sequel to Butterfly’s exploits, aptly named ‘Tender Hooks’.
‘The Diary’ was a mere chronological narration of events in Butterfly’s life and the world around her; spiced up by malapropisms, spoonerisms and her chutney-language and culminating in the diary entry about the assassination of Benazir Bhutto. In comparison, Tender Hooks has more of a story line in place. Butterfly’s world of the Lahore Glitterati is in tact even in these hard times of bomb blasts and economic sanctions and she is as ‘sophistry’ as ever. But this time she is commissioned into a bride-hunt for her twice-divorced cousin Jonkers by her Aunty Pussy; actually persuaded into the job which she does not really relish. Now Jonkers has recently been relieved of some of his wealth by his ‘low-born’ secretary, who had hopes of becoming a permanent factor in his life. And Aunt Pussy takes it on herself to find him a classy wife with family, looks, money and ‘bagg-ground’ in place. Butterfly flits through various shaadis and GTs (just Get Togethers), and peeks at the various brides on display. Meanwhile she also finds out that Jonkers has his own idea of what and how his wife should be.
It’s Butterfly’s odyssey through the ostentatious high society of Pakistan that forms the premise of the novel and how the marriage is finally made to happen. Butterfly keeps us informed through her wicked wit, and in the course of it gives us glimpses of Kulchoo her son, Jannoo her husband and other characters. But unlike The Diary, where Butterfly is herself, rather genuine in her pretensions and snobbish ways, Mohsin has tried to make us feel good about her protagonist in the sequel. There is a perceptible ‘K’ factor (aka Ekta Kapoor) that pops up frequently, after the story sets into its pace.
Of course, the hilarious cadence persists, and the parallel social and political commentary is still embedded, but one cannot ignore the slight overdose of the feel-good factor. The redemption of Butterfly with her self-righteous plans ends up in a Bollywood finale. This looked suspiciously packaged for an audience which gorges on Bollywood and K serials. Tender Hooks is certainly entertaining, and a one sit-read, but the magic touch and classic feel of hilarity dwelled best in The Diary.
Perhaps another episode of Butterfly is in the offing?