Almost Single by Advaita Kala

Almost Single is a peppy and humorous first literary endeavor by Advaita Kala. It’s a light, fun read for women of any background. Advaita Kala is a hotelier by profession and has worked and studied in India and abroad. Her knowledge and experience seems well utilized here. She has effortlessly made her point regarding the marriage scenario dominating the Indian marriage market.

The protagonist Aisha Bhatia is an articulate, career-oriented, forever-on-a-diet, shopaholic, independent, single, Indian woman; standing firm and matter of fact on her own two feet. She earns and spends her own money. The Damocles sword hanging over her head is that of marriage. Indian matrimonial portal demands prospective bride be slim, fair, beautiful, demure, gourmet cook and gracious hostess. Aisha doesn’t possess even one quality mentioned therein by her own standards. She smokes, drinks, parties, but all within limits as she tries to keep fasts and vrats at the behest of her mom.

Aisha hates her job with its saree draping and her boss who reminds her of her nagging mom but loves her friends, their gossip sessions and her search for true love. Her one friend is Misha, a small town girl living an independent life in Delhi, with big dreams of snagging the perfect NRI for herself. Her other friend is Anushka Mishra, once happily married but now headed for a divorce and struggling to come to terms with it. Then there is the gay couple Nic and Ric who are in a happy relationship and a pillar of support for Aisha in her innumerable sticky situations. When a very gorgeous and super rich NRI Karan Verma checks into the hotel, things start happening. There is an instant chemistry of dislike when Karan sees Aisha gift wrapping a car in toilet paper and Aisha sees Karan in his naked glory. Yet love steals in gently without their knowledge.

Some of the passages are really funny and the reader can feel the electricity between the two. The best is that the story is very realistic and Advaita has refrained from depicting Aisha as a culturally suppressed girl. The major and minor characters are well delineated though slightly clichéd. Ordinary everyday occurrences in a typical working girl’s life are woven skillfully into the main plot of marriage. The narration is fast paced which makes the book difficult to put down half way. The repartee between Karan and Aisha leaves the bystander laughing. The ending is a little abrupt and predictable and the means to it is risqué.

The book brings out very aptly the inner struggle of Aisha to be traditional while standing on the threshold of modernity. One can see the dilemma of every modern, independent, Indian girl reflected, as she keeps up with the western culture of partying and relationships while relating to the norms of conventional Indian womanhood. The book is extremely relevant to present context as it highlights the inner dilemma of countless Aishas who desire everything modern but can’t let go of tradition.