Bookish Witch

Saini Subramanyam vs. 2020: A Lockdown Story by Avinash Matta

Book blurb:

To love or not to love?
To pursue music or study engineering?
To eat South Indian food or North Indian?

Arjun Saini Subramanyam is a confused teenager with a life full of conflicting choices. Even as he struggles to pick the better choice, life throws more challenges at him as the lockdown is announced. His paternal grandparents, the Sainis, arrive from Amritsar; and his maternal grandparents, the Subramanyams, arrive from Visakhapatnam. His Mom and Dad are busy working from home, school is closed, and board exams are indefinitely postponed.

Arjun has to single-handedly deal with his constantly brawling gang of grandparents and try to unite them. As family secrets are revealed and old promises are broken, Arjun experiences a roller coaster of emotions before finding stability and zen-like wisdom on accepting life.

Genre: Fiction/Humour

Pages: 126 pages

Format: Kindle eBook

Price: 99 INR/$2.99

My Ratings: 4.6/5

Arjun Saini is the child of a Punjabi father and a Telugu+Tamilian mother. He has grown-up trying to keep his grandparents from cutting each others’ throats during their year-end and month-long stays with him and his parents. Cut to 2020, when they’re all forced to remain under one roof with no escape from each other. Will Arjun be able to make the adults and the senior citizens become amicable?

Book cover taken from Amazon

A hilariously realistic tale of the 2020 lockdown in India.

What I liked about the book:
-> The hilarious reasons answers listed out about the kind of explanations Indian parents give to their children when they ask, “How was I born?”
-> Paati (maternal grandmother) and Priya’s characters who rightly portray quite a few people who believe who judge and look down upon non-vegetarians.
-> The apt and hilarious circumstances of the lockdown 2020 make this one a highly relatable read.
-> The ingenious ideas of Arjun, around Tiktok, and then the distribution of meals, that help dissipate the differences between the adults.
-> The cross-cultural conflicts are depicted perfectly (and hilariously) without being stereotypical.
-> The story makes you live the various emotions that we might have felt during the lockdown – like the initial feeling of frustrations when you are forced to do your own work as domestic help is not available, working from home wearing boxer shorts, etc.

-> The reader tips included after every important reference. These were seriously LOL.
-> The discussions around Arjun’s further education and career that bring out the ‘Don’t follow your passion because it doesn’t get you money’ thinking of most Indian parents.

What I did not like about the book:
-> Paati’s character (maternal grandmother) is shown in a negative light, but then Rahul (Arjun’s father) defends her, which seems a little wrong and unrealistic.
-> Dadi’s and Paati’s characters are shown to be bickering while Dada and Taata (maternal grandfather) seem to mind their own business despite not liking each other so much. It felt like only the women cause problems when it comes to household disagreements and arguments, which is a stereotype.

Quotable quotes:
->Most children, at some point in their childhood, ask a question that arises out of their natural tendency to be curious- How was I born? And most parents come with fairy-tale answers out of their natural tendency to hide the truth. If one were to compile all these answers and publish them, he would have a best-seller on their hands.
->When mom says, ‘that’s enough’, we know it’s enough and Mom always has the final say in our house, only until my grandparents are not around that is.
->”Even Abhishek Bachhan has idlis for breakfast every morning.”
“That’s why his movies flop at the box office.”
->”I am a mouse it seems. And what are you?A bhalu? Yes, yes. You’re a bhalu who eats aloo.”
-> If you’ve witnessed a lot of family feuds, you’d know that every feud has a point of no return, which is basically a point where someone says something so insulting or objectionable and that catapults both the parties into unsigned lifetime agreement of fighting, taunting, tussling, brawling, suing, and in some cases (like our very own Mahabharata) even warring.
-> “I wanted to ask why everybody said ‘listen to your gut’ because my gut doesn’t speak to me, it’s just filled with gas half the time.
->Kids these days don’t appreciate the freedom and choices their parents give them.
->Very few people in this world have the blessing to follow a path where the soul is content and the wallet is full.

->If you want to listen to your heart, you need to be prepared for the struggle. If you want a comfortable life with a good income, then forget your heart and choose what would be profitable in the long run.
->Too many cooks spoil the broth they say. Well, too many opinions in the family spoil the child’s mind, I say.
-> It’s best to resolve personal differences at the earliest. Otherwise, the anger and frustration ferment over time and if left unaddressed for long, they turn sour like the idli batter that’s left out in the open for several days. And if people with such sour differences end up being locked in the same house, like a terrible season of Bigg Boss, it’s a nightmare for life.
->Love doesn’t need languages.
->We need to learn to live and let live.
-> We needn’t be awfully correct all the time. It is okay to do what we want to do as long as we accept others wholeheartedly and let them do what they want to do.
->If we don’t want to be forced to do something, then we shouldn’t force others either.
-> Stop trying to think who is right and who is wrong. Maybe nobody is right or wrong, we just have our opinions about everything, and we’re quite sensitive about them.
-> Although a few differences will always remain, they’re good differences. Because as a society we need some differences to keep us glued together.
->”You can’t go around making fun of others just because someone made fun of you.”
“This is the age of being righteous and ideal. Sometimes you have to act clever so others don’t take advantage of you.”
-> To understand someone completely, it’s important to understand their sometimes crazy family and how that affects their behaviour.

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