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  Books   27 Apr 2024  Book Review | Fashionista-influencer discovers Goa’s susegad

Book Review | Fashionista-influencer discovers Goa’s susegad

Published : Apr 27, 2024, 1:24 pm IST
Updated : Apr 27, 2024, 1:24 pm IST

Goagr@m is about Madhur, a young fashion designer who adopted social media as a business and branding tool

Cover page of Goagr@m
 Cover page of Goagr@m

For a book that turned out to be quite a mood lifter, Bina Nayak’s Goagr@m engendered a huge amount of angst in my editor’s soul as I read it.

First, the unnecessary introduction by the author led me to expect a certain kind of story in the pages that followed, only to have me confused when a completely different story emerged. Next, the banal writing and frequent misuse of words drove me crazy. Finally, the overuse of sentences in Hindi, Konkani and Portuguese, each one requiring a translation in parentheses, interfered with the flow of the storytelling so much that as I turned the pages, I felt as though my brain was stuttering.

In fact, the first 70-odd pages of the book made me so cranky that when I suddenly realised I was growing fond of the heroine, my jaw actually dropped. But there it was, clearly on display: the ability of a good story to overpower all technical flaws and simply shine.

Goagr@m is about Madhur (aka Maddy and Mad), a young fashion designer who adopted social media as a business and branding tool long before most Indians even imagined its possibilities. Stuck at home in Delhi with her nagging mother in the lockdown imposed during the pandemic, her loving and encouraging father lost to Covid-19, and her business going down the drain, Madhur moves to Goa to consolidate her brand by becoming an influencer. The idea, however, is tougher to execute than she thought. Goa in 2020 is still mostly unexposed to the concept of social media influencing and vendors she approaches for vlogs and reviews believe she’s just a beggar trying to inveigle free meals and products. Plus, she’s clearly an outsider, her big city tension, aggression, and lack of trust in people completely at odds with Goa’s famous susegad.

Slowly though, Goa gets to Madhur. It starts with her landlady who is always interested — in a good way — in what Madhur is doing and why, and always willing to share stories of her own life and lifestyle, which fascinates Madhur. It continues with Madhur's interest in and use of the languages of Konkani and Portuguese which makes the local people inclined to be friendlier to her. And the more Madhur interacts with the local people, the more her personality transforms from hard-edged and brittle to relaxed, open, and thinking.

The changes don’t always come easily, however. Madhur finds herself in a me-too situation when she comes across an ageing Bollywood star who all too cheerfully participates in her vlog; the landlady who’s becoming more of a mother to her than her own mother dies of a stroke; a video her phone accidentally recorded while she suffered the me-too situation is found by a cop with blackmail on his mind; her new landlord throws her out of her flat... But even when Madhur is down, she’s never out and it is impossible not to root for her, however annoying the telling of the story can get.


By Bina Nayak

HarperCollins India

pp. 255; Rs 399


Tags: book review 2024, goagr@m