What Kitty Did: A breezy travel read for your next weekend trip
A Delhi-based journalist slowly working her way up the ladder, stumbling at the most inconvenient points, worrying over the lack of 'serious journalism', drinking, drinking a lot, baking, baking to perfection – there's a lot about Trisha Bora's protagonist in What Kitty Did that's super relatable.
She's not ditzy, as one of the other characters in this book is fleetingly described, but flawed and believable. She's privileged, enough to come across as the much debated 'urban poor', but, ultimately, she tries to solve her own problems.
Kitty or Ketaki Roy isn't entirely different from the character Ayesha Khan in Saba Imtiaz'sKarachi! You're Killing Me, but it would be unfair to compare the two. Because while Imtiaz's protagonist realises her true potential, going through a dramatic change, Kitty doesn't completely change course with one good story. And that only adds to the believability.
Bora's strengths lie in the little observations about Delhi, the city Kitty practically skips across. She makes simple observations about the urban elite in Delhi, without spelling out the obvious.
Some Delhiites, Bora quietly observes, “Go out for a run, take a smoke break between”. This is a great comment on the healthy lifestyle we often harp on but never fully practice. Gym sessions are often followed by binge drinking, cheat days often amount to calories one wouldn't consume in a whole week, working out in barely outdoors, and salads come with mayonnaise.
The author also appears to comment on the kind of privilege that allows one to see the troubles of one's pets, but not the marginalised. One rich lady in the story adopts an abandoned pedigree dog and laments about his life, but, in the next moment, she screams at her gardener, threatening to shave his head if he doesn’t prune her garden right.
Of course, it doesn't help that the chapter closes with the dog humping this poor gardener.
While What Kitty Did points out these inconsistencies in what Delhiites do versus what they appear to believe, it doesn't lecture. The book is largely a breezy read, with generous amounts of murder mystery tropes, a typical Mills & Boons romance, and, thankfully, ample wit.
The one complaint one can have with this book, named after Susan Coolidge's What Katy Did and duly credited, is the ease with which conflicts are resolved. Kitty is constantly saved at the eleventh hour, which can become a bit predictable.
Also, her Bengali background is slightly unconvincing, but one could consider that is a result of the character's very Delhi probashi upbringing.
What Kitty Did is unconvincing when it tries too hard, especially with threats and how the characters react to it. There's little or no acknowledgement for a lot that's obviously frightening, not to mention rather illegal.
The more Kitty ventures into what she understands as serious journalism, the more she veers away from it, thanks to her Nancy Drew antics. It has to be said here that Trisha Bora's strengths lie in her narration and her characters, much more than the plot or how she moves it forward.
Nonetheless, What Kitty Did is easily a relaxed travel read. It will make you laugh, and if you've ever had anything at all to do with Delhi, it will make you remember a few people you've met along the way.