Salaam Paris : Kavita Daswani

Salaam Paris is about a 19 year old Indian Muslim girl, Tanaya Shah, from a conservative family. She leaves Mumbai to go to Paris under the guise of meeting the man she has been promised to. Once in Paris, she breaks away from her family. Ignoring the gnawing guilt of behaving unlike a good Muslim and to find the her individual freedom that she romantically links with Paris, having dreamed of achieving Zen-like satisfaction a la Audrey Hepburn in Sabrina.

She goes on to become one of the most sought after models in the Paris fashion industry. The book follows her rise and super stardom and her time amongst the rich, beautiful and famous in Paris and New York. Sounds promising for a quick fun read, doesn't it. I thought so. I was wrong. Its an absolute bore.

For a book with so much to play around with, there is no flavor or pizazz to it. It gives no more insight into the orthodox Muslim world than the 2 words themselves "orthodox Muslim". The same goes for the "fashion industry".

For a story that revolves around exciting and beautiful cities, Mumbai, Paris, New York, the book is a real drab. I was hoping it would be full of insights into the fashion world, or maybe some tender thoughts of a young Muslim girl abandoned by her family for wanting to be an individual. Instead it reads more like a Women's Era story. It may sound harsh but there was not a single line which made me laugh, enjoy the moments or cheer for her in her quest for freedom.

Do I even have to say what happens in the end. Like every unimaginative Hindi movie, this too ends with Tanaya leaving her (pretty cool, I think) job for a husband. All that rebellion for nothing! Don't get me wrong, I am not against her choice, just that somehow a lot of books/movies tend to focus and preach on the struggle of a woman to prove herself and then show her ending up with the very life she was rebelling against. As if a woman is only truly satisfied with a husband and kids. The only thing I agreed with was when she slightly redeems herself in the end by trying to live her own life finally and not be bogged down by guilt passed on by her family.

Kavita Daswani tries to pull off a compelling let-me-live-my-life book but it's very weak. I think I had high expectations seeing that she had been a fashion editor.

I would have been better off reading one of the raunchy Shoba De books.


Paul said...

Great, gritty review. Was interested to hear why this book didn't work for you. Must say, so many similar stories seem to have been published that it would take something exceptional in the way language was being used for it to spark my interest.


Treehouse Dwellers said...

Hey - if you're interested in a good book about a muslim woman's break for freedom and all that that means - try Infidel - an autobiography by Ayaan Hirsi Ali. Not necessarily a comfortable read but very interesting.

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