Ila Isham has a lot to worry about – the angst of being an Ali Zafar groupie and the extra layers of fat she has inherited from her Punjabi lineage. Add to this separated parents, an enthusiastic best friend, Deepali, whose idea of variety means dating three guys at the same time and Aunty Maleeka, mom’s BFF, whose savvy skills throw up more problems than solutions.
Ila’s life takes an exciting turn when she decides to hunt for the perfect partner for her mother. With a little help from Deepali, Aunty Maleeka and Dev of the inviting chocolate-pool eyes, she’ll have to brave it all – from Lagaan.com and Ok-cupid profiles to handlebar-moustache colonels and middle-aged psychos, if she wants to succeed in her quest!
Operation Mom – an opportunity to whack the funny bone.
In general, I think life would be more fun if we took it down a notch. I am a huge proponent of stand up comedy and improv because I think it helps us let go of our Type A existence, be spontaneous and have a laugh or two. That goes for the performers as well as the audience members. So many of us take ourselves way too seriously and really need a whack of our funny bone from time to time.
I grew up reading very serious novels, most of them Classic British literature. It wasn’t until I moved to the United States many years later that I discovered the American sense of humor – so basic, so subtle and so able to lighten your mood on any given day. It made me think about how I had so material right here in my home.
In Indian life, be it in or outside of India, there is an element of predictability and safety that underscores practically every decision — it’s a classic example as to why Indian parents want their kids to go into ‘safe’ professions like medicine and engineering. There is plenty of comedy in that itself – you just need to dig for it. And when it comes to predictability, you don’t typically find an Indian situation in which the daughter is setting up her mom – usually it happens the other way around. You don’t find stories which expose you to a variety of cray cray ethnic situations strewn around Mumbai – all ripe for comedic interpretation. That’s what I wanted to do with Operation Mom — in many ways it is an LOL window into my life and circumstances. As a Mumbaikar I feel like I have many affinities – to the Punjabi way of life, to the Parsi community, to places like Swati Snacks and Worli Seaface…all these are part of my ordinary world that I wanted to share with folks everywhere. I wanted to highlight the contextual comedy that is such a huge part of my people and in these places. And the fun with writing fiction is that through it, you can make the ordinary, extraordinary.
My relationship with my own mom has been fairly laid back. She definitely played her role of ‘Classic Punjabi Mother’ during my younger years but as any Punjabi will tell you, the moment you enter into the institution of marriage, the Punjabi mother becomes completely hands-off. My book actually has nothing to do with my own mother but her ridiculous Punju traits definitely carry through all the humorous set-pieces. For anyone familiar with the quirks of this particular community, the anecdotes will resonate.
When I was a kid, she was highly skeptical of anything concerning me – where I went, who I met and why I pursued the things I wanted to do. Her old-school Punjabi mindset had her believe that if I was too ‘interesting’ or ‘determined’, then it would naturally become an impediment to ‘marrying me off’. So when I successfully stalked George Michael, my teen pop idol, it truly stressed her out.
Who is George Michael, you ask? Well, back in the eighties, he was the lead singer of Wham! Okay that completely gives away my age 🙂 I was one of many teenage girls in the eighties who was completely obsessed with him. Determined to meet him in person, I went through lengths to stalk him one summer holiday in England. It took practically all summer for me to track him down, and mind you this was long before the age of internet or social media, so I really take great pride in my grass roots research skills! I made my way to his father’s restaurant in Edgware, and then followed his cat to his house in Bushey Meads where I had a long chat with his mother, who finally pointed me to the office of his manager in Central London, where I eventually met him. I was fifteen then, obsessive to put it mildly…or perhaps I should say, ‘determined.’ But this event propelled me to teen stardom…as pathetic as that sounds! And the story has kept listeners marveling and laughing with each re-telling these last thirty-five years. So I chose to copy-paste the George Michael story from my life and into my novel, almost verbatim.
What’s wrong with the Comedy of Obsessiveness? Like I said, life would be so much more fun if we took ourselves a little less seriously.
Reenita Malhotra Hora is a founder, executive-level content, operations & marketing leader, and prolific writer. With multiple years of experience in media, entertainment, communications, tech/innovation and wellness industries in the USA and Asia, she grows organizations, ranging from early stage startups through mid-size businesses, through storytelling, creative marketing and business strategy.
Reenita has written seven books – five non fiction and two fiction. She is the writer, anchor and executive producer of Shadow Realm and True Fiction Project podcasts and founder of the Chapter by episode fiction app. She has contributed to The Hindu, South China Morning Post, Wall Street Journal, New York Times, CNN, Asian Investor, Times of India, National GeographicKids, Cartoon Network Asia, Disney, and more.
Special thanks to A Marketing Expert!