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The Windfall by Diksha Basu
Literary fiction

The Windfall

Debut

We love supporting debut authors. Congrats, Diksha Basu, on your first book!

by Diksha Basu

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Quick take

A bubbly, fun, witty comedy of manners about a family attempting a lifestyle upgrade in Delhi.

Synopsis

A heartfelt comedy of manners, Diksha Basu’s debut novel unfolds the story of a family discovering what it means to 'œmake it' in modern India.

For the past thirty years, Mr. and Mrs. Jha’s lives have been defined by cramped spaces, cut corners, gossipy neighbors, and the small dramas of stolen yoga pants and stale marriages. They thought they’d settled comfortably into their golden years, pleased with their son’s acceptance into an American business school. But then Mr. Jha comes into an enormous and unexpected sum of money, and moves his wife from their housing complex in East Delhi to the super-rich side of town, where he becomes eager to fit in as a man of status: skinny ties, hired guards, shoe-polishing machines, and all.

The move sets off a chain of events that rock their neighbors, their marriage, and their son, who is struggling to keep a lid on his romantic dilemmas and slipping grades, and brings unintended consequences, ultimately forcing the Jha family to reckon with what really matters. Hilarious and wise, The Windfall illuminates with warmth and charm the precariousness of social status, the fragility of pride, and, above all, the human drive to build and share a home. Even the rich, it turns out, need to belong somewhere.

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The Windfall

From chapter one:

Mr. Jha had worked hard and he was ready to live well.

'œSeeing that all of you are here, we have some news,' he said to the neighbors assembled in the Mayur Palli Housing Complex in East Delhi. He was nervous, so he looked over at his wife, who was standing in the doorway of the kitchen, and his son, Rupak, who was at home for the summer vacation, sitting on a dining table chair. His wife met his gaze and nodded, gently, expectantly, encouraging him to hurry up and share the news. And he knew he had to, before the gossip spread through the housing complex. Tonight they had invited their closest friends--Mr. and Mrs. Gupta, Mr. and Mrs. Patnaik, and Mrs. Ray--to tell them that after about twenty-five years (they had moved in when Mrs. Jha was eight months pregnant) they were moving out, and not just moving out, but moving to Gurgaon, one of the richest new neighborhoods in Delhi.

It would have been easier, in a way, to announce a move to Dubai or Singapore or Hong Kong. Mr. Jha himself had often been part of conversations that criticized families for moving to different Delhi neighborhoods the minute they could afford to. And certainly nobody of his generation had moved out in recent years. He was fifty-two years old, his wife was forty-nine, and their twenty-three-year-old son was in business school in America. The move was going to be seen as an unnecessary display of his newly acquired wealth. And since the money had come from the onetime sale of a website, everyone in Mayur Palli treated it with suspicion. Nobody believed it was hard-earned money. 'œA lucky windfall,' he had heard Mr. Gupta call it. But Mr. Jha knew that it had been anything but luck; it had been hard work.

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Why I love it

Whenever the weather turns hot all I want to do is read gossipy, effervescent novels about people surfing precarious social tides and trying to make it to dry land in one piece. The Windfall quenches just that thirst: a bubbly, fun, witty comedy of manners about a family attempting a lifestyle upgrade in Delhi. It’s a story about ambition, family secrets, and the pride before the fall.

When Mr. Jha, the family patriarch, sells his website for a fortune, he finds himself suddenly able to relocate—out of the cramped Mayur Palli Housing Complex, where he has lived with his wife for over twenty years, and into Gurgaon, one of the toniest neighborhoods in all of Delhi. Suddenly free of the prying neighbors and tight living spaces of middle class India, the Jhas are like a modern day update on The Jeffersons, endeavoring to fit into their new surroundings and the accompanying social pressures—they learn how to use dimmer switches, Mr. Jha buys a corporate-grade shoe polisher for their home. But of course, along with new material things come brand-new problems. Soon, the Jhas are enmeshed in a complex game of humblebrag one-upmanship with their neighbors, who casually drop references to Harrods and luxurious recreation clubs and new Jaguars. It seems that once you’re rich, only being richer will do.

Meanwhile, the Jhas' son, who left for business school in America shortly after his parents’ windfall, has fallen in love with a woman named Elizabeth, spending profligately, and almost flunking out of his MBA program. He starts to become enchanted with the trappings of his fathers’ bank account and romanticizing his new surroundings: 'œHe bought an iPhone and an iPad and a GoPro camera and he downloaded Final Cut Pro and he spent his time filming his life in America and creating his own mini film versions of the shows and movies he had grown up watching.' He falls into a melancholic state, knowing that back home, his parents still want him to marry an Indian girl, and that if he cannot succeed in business, he will never be able to have the independence he craves.

Money changes everything—and in the case of the Jhas, it puts stressors on all aspects of their lives: marriage, parenthood, friendship, sanity. Watching the Jhas deal with their new circumstances is a joy, even when they’re not having much fun. If you want to read a novel that fizzles in the back of your throat like a cold glass of champagne, full of evocative details and sparkly trappings of modern Indian high society, then lay out on a towel and take in Diksha Basu’s debut.

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Member ratings (1,505)

  • Nicole P.

    West Hartford , CT

    A light, funny read. This book started off slow for me but by the end I couldn't put it down. I felt immersed in the neighborhood drama and truly enjoyed experiencing it through different characters.

  • Catherine C.

    St. Louis, MO

    Magical! This book achieves a Confederacy of Dunces level of satire with the absurd travails of its lovably messed up anti-hero. Endearing, funny, and wonderfully attuned to modern cultural conflict.

  • Catherine B.

    Arlington, MA

    Loved this book! Gently satirical and nuanced with well-developed characters. The author does a great job of revealing her characters through small, well-written details. Looking forward to her next!

  • Robyn G.

    Chesterfield, VA

    A hilarious, sometimes awkward, but always charming, tale of an Indian family that suddenly comes into wealth and all the stresses that causes. Heartwarming and real, it is a book I will read again.

  • Genevieve B.

    Pittsburgh, PA

    I adored this novel. Basu is the Jane Austin of our time who builds beautiful and well-rounded characters and a fascinating peek into each of their lives. Laughed, cried, raged w characters. Supurb.

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