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“I am quite sure this book will not tell you much about ‘How to be a woman’. I don’t know how to write that sort of thing, as I’m still figuring it out.”
How often does it happen that the author, the creator of this cluster of words that you hold in your hands, admits that just like you, they are winging it? On a Saturday morning, a smile spread across my face as I read the first line of the book, The Whole Shebang, and it had me hooked.
I am repeating author Lalita Iyer’s disclaimer as I write this review - this book does not teach you how to be who you are or want to be. No, what it does is a little bit more. It makes a 23-year-old say ‘Oh, hey, me too!’ to something a 48-year-old has written.
So when Iyer talks about her first period, I was instantly taken back to the time I started ‘chumming’. The day when my mother explained to me that by this sudden twist of fate, I was transformed into a woman. She conveniently forgot to mention the cramps and mood swings, of course.
When Iyer discussed body image issues, I found myself nodding for all those times I considered my breasts too small, my buttocks too big. Or the fact that after having my heart broken way too many times, I still look at the man sitting opposite me in this coffee shop and wonder if he might just be the one. Just like she discusses her imagined relationships with men, I, too, think about what my first fight with him would be about, and how it would end with hot sex. Ah, well.
Like Iyer wrote -
“We are constantly examining our imaginary love stories in our heads - constructing and deconstructing scenarios - decoding what he said to reveal what he really meant, looking for signs, seeing signs while none exist…”
And though there are several things I don’t relate to from the book - the idea of raising a child, for example (I still genuinely think there would be a right time for it. A moment of clear realization where I will decide I want a child but Iyer disagrees with that to a certain level). Or the skill of managing in-laws and a marriage. Or choosing to be your own happily-ever-after (I haven’t quite figured out what that means yet) - there was a part of me that still understood all of it.
I understood the how’s and why’s without really ever experiencing those things. I understood both the need to escape and stay. It makes you realize that we, women are huddled together in the same tight spot - much closer than we think we are. In between wondering ‘how come she always has new dresses?’ and ‘gosh, my hair never looks that great after a haircut!’ and ‘she’s got a job and a husband, she really has it sorted’, we are all just victims of underwire bras and thong wedgies.
To be honest, for someone who often blurts out “I love reading!”, I hadn’t been reading much lately. My to-read book pile was soaring new heights day by day as I guiltily kept turning my head back to the laptop. I have always preferred the written word to the spoken but somewhere in between early morning meetings and my fourth cup of coffee, my words became as shallow as the wide toothed grin I was wearing all day long. That’s just the price one pays to stay in the game, I had decided.
It was a typical Friday evening with frantic efforts to wrap up work before the clock struck 6:30, while simultaneously putting up ‘Friyay’ Instagram posts, followed by the boss’s message that come Monday, the team needed to “talk”. That’s when The Whole Shebang entered the room, and as my boss handed it over with the casual, “You think you can finish it over the next two days?”, I thought to myself there goes your weekend, buddy. Two days later, as I moved my fingers over the last words of the book, I hated that it couldn’t last longer. And finally, after a long time, my read book pile got a new addition!