Book Review | A frothy retelling of the journey of Pak & the world in last 8 yrs

The Asian Age.  | Rupa Gulab

Review of 'Between You, Me and the Four Walls' by Moni Mohsin

Cover photo of 'Between You, Me and the Four Walls' by Moni Mohsin (Photo by arrangement)

Yet another book on Moni Mohsin’s charming Social Butterfly, hurrah! For those who came in late, this political and social satirical series is based on a terribly snobbish and almost completely vacuous socialite in Lahore, but honestly Butterfly could just as well be from Delhi or Mumbai.

The latest instalment, Between You, Me and the Four Walls, spans 2014 to 2021, so you have  potshots at political leaders like Imran Khan, Narendra Modi, Donald Trump, and Boris Johnson to look forward to, and frothy takes on controversial political moves like demonetisation, Brexit, etc. Butterfly’s distress over Covid will make you giggle, not weep, because it ruins her parties and holiday plans.

All this while you keep up with hot society fads in Butterfly’s life. She desperately wants to be an “influenza” (influencer) on Instagram so she can make people sizzle with jealousy at photographs of her designer bags and shoes, meals with “erotic” fruit like nectarines, destination holidays, etc.

She discovers that lit fests are places that she absolutely must be seen at, even though she complains that author Vikram Seth is “…a little bit bore, talking of bore dry things like Chinese poetry…”. While she’s quite taken by the idea of “sad make-up” for high society funerals in case photographers from society mags are lurking around, she circumspectly draws the line at carrying a little dog in designer handbags like Paris Hilton: “…if I carry doggy around in my bag, where will he do his small bathroom and his big bathroom?”

Fortunately, Butterfly’s husband Janoo, an “Oxen” from Oxford, keeps her grounded and is possibly her, erm, “influenza” when it comes to all things political. While Janoo is a wealthy landowner with more than enough money to support Butterfly’s designer lifestyle, he cares about the “poors” and spends most of his time improving their lives in his family’s village. He also believes in pluralism and democracy and is disgusted by the stranglehold army generals and “beardo weirdos” have over Pakistan. He’s not Butterfly’s only moral compass though — Kulchoo, her son is becoming a “sarrhial lefty” too, much to her dismay.

The parallels between India and Pakistan go beyond Bollywood love and mandatory summers in London. Imran Khan does a Kejriwal in anti-corruption protests with a few of Butterfly’s socialite friends enthusiastically joining in. She sneers when their participation dies down soon enough because, “Unfortunately, a lot of poors had also come along to the dharna, na…so they were eating and sleeping and washing and doing bathroom in the dharna area…”. We’re same to same, as Butterfly would probably say.

The most telling bit, though, is when Butterfly gloats: “Our politics tau have always been like this only…but now look at India also. Lynchings and gagged press and banned beef…At least now when we and the Indians from Delhi, Mumbai and all bypass each other in Harrods in summers, they can’t give us superior si looks.”

This is a hilarious account of the last eight years of the world as seen through the eyes of a subcontinental satirist.

Between You, Me and the Four Walls

By Moni Mohsin

Penguin India

pp. 232, Rs 299