Skip to main content

Book review- The Diary of a social butterfly

I feel strongly about a line from Thomas Gray’s Ode on a Distant Prospect of Eton College. The poet writes ‘where Ignorance is bliss, ‘tis folly to be wise’. In an idyllic setting I would associate this entire line with basking under the sun on a small hill top watching clouds float and sheep graze at a distance though in day to day life I often quote the half of it- ‘ignorance is bliss’.
And I thought of this line very often while reading Moni Mohsin’s The Diary of a Social Butterfly (TDSB). Butterfly is a socialite and is blissfully ignorant about her own inanities. Moni Mohsin is a journalist who wrote a column by the same name in Pakistan’s Friday Times. This book is a selection of these very column entries. The 220 page book at Rs 199 is fully paisa vasool.

The diary is set up in modern day Pakistan. It though records the social hits and misses of Butterfly, is a commentary, actually a satirical commentary, on the state of affairs in large. Butterfly has no clue about all that is happening yet she has an opinion on just about everything and everyone, be it the sacking of the Chief Justice at the hands of Mush, bomb blasts, suicide attacks or the prolific GTs of the high and mighty in Isloo. You don’t know GTs!!! Baba where are you from? The third rock from the sun? Hain? GTs are get togethers.
This last sentence was the effect Butterfly has had on me. This is how colloquial she is. In life we come across people who get stuck in our head. It might be the way they look, the way they talk or a specific gesture of theirs that stays on while we may move apart. Reading TDSB and especially the fun way it has been written I could see one dear aunty mouthing these words. Itni similarity ke bas pucho hi na.

Butterfly goes party hopping like it is the breath that she thrives on. She attends six parties in two days and her Eid celebrations are such ki bas pucho hi na. The book is full of us Indians in various avtaars. The most prominent being our celebs from Bollywood. There are parties being hosted for them. (And we thought there was animosity between the two neighbours) Even Vijay Mallya is there. And Maharani Gayatri Devi too. Butterfly is not fully ignorant about the developments that take place around her thanks to the huge wall mounted LCD in her bedroom that her husband insists on seeing news on. She is very much aware of who got a visa to where and how thanks to no TV but her own connections.

It is intriguing to read about the rich and their holidays, their villas and their shopping sprees in London, Boston and even our beloved Khan Market. She is heartbroken after 9/11 as now the US embassy is making life difficult for innocent people like her by not giving visas and they have to sarroh in the hot weather. She thanks God when the garmi is holding off a bit.
The diary entries start from January 2001 with Taliban threatening to destroy all statues while Butterfly’s friend Floozie has run off with her best friend’s husband. Butterfly has only one agenda that her social life must go on unhampered despite what happens in her country or the world around her.
The best loved bits are about sarrhi boti, news junkie ‘Janoo’ the husband who is an embarrassment for Butterfly. He is ‘So untrendy, so dheela, so behind’. At another point he is described as ‘Bechara, crack tau he always was but now he’s gone start staring mad’.

At various points the author dips her mis-spelling pen in sarcasm and is great at it. Mush disappoints her when he gets power hungry and Janoo points out that the army must learn to let go. She wonders who will come to power when news of Musharraf and Benazir being in secret talks comes in. ‘I am tau sick of that silly ping-pong’ Butterfly remarks while taking a guess at Benazir and Nawaz. She is miffed when every Tom, Dick and Hairy gets access to Suzukis.

Other characters includes her mother-in-law The old bag, her own son Kulchoo, her sisters-in-law twosome gruesome and her own parents various aunts, uncles, their offsprings and an array of inane friends. The last entry is recorded in January 2008 when Benazir was assassinated. Butterfly frankly admits that she never liked her ‘She was corrupt and always doing ghaplas’ yet she misses her.
Have no doubt that you will left wanting to read more.
This is one book that you can go back to over and over again in times when your own life is lacking humor or satire.


Ram Sud said…
I often failed to describe such butterflies without wings know-all fluttering around. Since, that a book has been suggested, I am sure reading it would not only be a feast to eyes & mind but satisfaction to my egoistic intellectual.

Popular posts from this blog

Book Review: Eeny Meeny, MJ Arlidge

A spine chilling novel where Detective Inspector Helen Grace makes her first appearance. Read it for a prose that doesn't meander or wastes time in getting to the point.


I have bee postponing writing about Eeny Meeny because I wanted to be in a certain mood to write this review. There has only been one other book besides this one that has given me a sleepless night. That book was Agatha Christie's 'And Then There Were None'.

There is nothing graphic or gory in either of these books over which I might have lost sleep but the sheer reason for which people were being murdered, shook me up. Of course And Then There Were None is very atmospheric, that whole abandoned island, the morose weather, crashing sea waves- is enough to spook you. It is the woman herself- Agatha Christies- who is a master storyteller, you might just say.

Getting back to Eeny Meeny, credit should be given to Arlidge for creating a spell binding narrative doled out in small,…

Book Review: The No.1 Ladies' Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith #1

Precious Ramotswe- Botswana's only and finest female private detective makes her debut with this book which is divided into short stories like chapters, full of warmth, wit and intuitive charm, taking our detective to solve a case in strange locations amongst still stranger people.
The No.1 Ladies' Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith is everything that you might expect from a thriller novel and then some more. The book perhaps might seem like the life story of Precious Ramotswe, Botswana's only and finest female private detective, from her birth till the time she sets up her agency and you might be tempted to give up, (if you are in search of blood and gore) but I would suggest against it.
The book not only gives you the entire history of the now thirty-five years old and large (but the traditional way) Precious Ramotswe and some of Botswana as to what this place and its people are like, but I believe that the very skilled Mr Smith is just setting the …

Seeking thrillers- Why I am reading mystery books this year

If you have been following me for sometime, you might know that I am on a personal mission to read as many first thrillers where a Detective or a Detective Inspector makes an appearance, from world over. So far, I have read some awesome Detectives etched by writers from the Nordic countries (Jo Nesbo, Helen Tursten, Kristina Ohlsson),  the US (JK Rowling aka Robert Galbraith) and this one that I am going to review next, from England (MJ Arlidge, this though is his fifth on the link). I have also read some remarkable stand alone thrillers like No time for Goodbye and the Japanese masterpiece Devotion Suspect X (which I think kicked my obsession with finding the first ones of the series and which was so mind-blowing that its review isn't even comprehensible slink to another one of his works that is also so so good. Must rectify that one someday though when I can get over the awesomeness).

You might wonder why am I doing it. Even I think what is this going to achieve and I don't…

Book Review: No Time for Goodbye by Linwood Barclay

If you would want to give your system a shock or a jolt then this book is for you. If you are facing a reader's block and thrillers are your thing then read this book. Pick this book if you want to have a good time page after page.

The Plot

No Time for Goodbye by the Canadian author Linwood Barclay is a nail biting thriller that is as simple and humane as it is complex. As a 14 year old Cynthia Bigge is dragged from her boyfriend's arms by her father who finds her sloshed in his car one night. Next morning Cynthia wakes up to find that her parents and brother have disappeared without leaving a single trace or note for her. The house is spic and span as her mother likes to keep it, nothing is out of place or amiss to suggest any kind of foul play and still no one can seem find anything about her family. On the twenty-fifth anniversary of this event, Cynthia agrees to feature in a documentary about this. A few days later strange things begin t…

Book review: Unwanted by Kristina Ohlsson #1

Someone is abducting small children and leaving their dead bodies with UNWANTED scribbled on their foreheads. Fredrika Bergman is an academician and a civilian, and a new entrant on the investigation team whose instincts and insights are being ignored by her senior male colleagues at the Police department. Will the culprit keep getting away or will the team come together past its differences and nab him?

Whoever said a book will take you to places that you might not otherwise get a chance to visit. While I would say that reading any author is like going inside his head and at times there you will find how a psycho thinks and works and there you might also find the wonder and inquisitiveness of a small child.

Unwanted by Kristina Ohlsson is a thriller that will take you through many Swedish towns and cities in search of the perpetrator of a crime that takes place in Stockholm. A young child of six, Lillian, is abducted from a crowded train. No one notices that t…