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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.

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