Comfortably Numb

Sheila Kumar's Storehouse

Published on: 01/26/20 12:40 PM

Book review: The Swap by Shuma Raha

Love, sex and dhokha

‘Soon to be a major web series,’ a blurb announces on the cover of The Swap by Shuma Raha. Within a couple of chapters into the story, which deals with two couples whose lives get  remarkably intertwined, the reader sees that  the book would translate very well  onto celluloid, offering an intimate look at the sordid comings and goings of the glitterati, some purely wannabe, of Delhi.

The book itself paints a far more  grimy picture. Delhi is, quite literally, a hot mess. Our protagonist Priya and her husband Akash are bored with and in their marriage and are waiting for something, anything, to spark passion again. Enter a rich socialite couple who invite a surprisingly large number of their friends to a spouse-swapping party…and the sexual games begin.

Sex parties, adultery, emotional affairs, revenge; all in all, there’s a lot of drama to be had in the book, some of it uncomfortably realistic in its examination of marriage and sex in and out of marriage. What happens when you find your marriage has fallen into a rut? Does true love have to be everlasting to be truly true? What does it take to call it quits? What do you do once you are finished at a sex party but your husband isn’t?

These are some of the pertinent points journalist Raha addresses, via a strong voice that effectively leaps out from the page and grabs your attention. Also, thanks be, the sex scenes are handled in a most matter-of-fact manner.

The strong thread of cynicism,  though, can get a bit wearisome after a point. Priya is a difficult person to like, judgemental and bitchy, as are Akash and their friends, Dileep and Anuradha,  with whom they have affairs. Other characters fit a tad too neatly into types, like the friend who feels strongly about women’s rights, the Bengali boss at the newspaper,  the moustache-twirling villain-of-sorts.

And yes, there is a subliminal message couched in a question: is sexual game-playing likely to mess people up? Well, could it be otherwise? Then again, a considerable amount of urban Indians in our metros now seem to be stepping out of their fantasy into this chosen reality.  Or so the Internet tells me.

HarperCollins Publishers India

Rs 299/-

284 pages

This ran in THE HINDU`s LITERARY REVIEW of 26 Jan 2020.

book reviewLiterary Reviewmarriage moresShuma RahaThe HinduThe Swap

Sheila Kumar • January 26, 2020

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