Masala Chai For The Soul Book Review: Laugh Your Way Through Troubles

Masala Chai For The Soul Book Review: Laugh Your Way Through Troubles

If you are the kind who likes to unwind with a cup of tea, after a tiring commute and a long day at work, then Masala Chai for the Soul is just the thing for you

Alpana ChowdhuryUpdated: Sunday, March 24, 2024, 12:01 PM IST
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Pic: Stocksy

Book: Masala Chai For The Soul

Author: Jairam N. Menon

Publisher: Rupa Publications

Pages: 224

Price: Rs 295

If you are the kind who likes to unwind with a cup of tea, after a tiring commute and a long day at work, then Masala Chai for the Soul is just the thing for you. As columnist and bestselling author Bachi Karkaria says in her foreword to the book, “This book is self-help laced with wit…There’s a great need for its ilk today when we all suffocate under the shrink-wrap of stress.”

Masala Chai’s author, Jairam N. Menon, who debunks almost every myth we believe in, in a sparkling manner, could well have named his book Champagne for the Soul. Reading any chapter, at any time of the day, does wonders to one’s mood. If newspaper headlines announcing yet another tax for the helpless middle class, gives you a persecution complex, just open the book to the chapter titled Happily in the Middle, and you will stop feeling sorry for yourself or the gossip-infested housing society you are doomed to live in; and may even end up feeling superior to the crass, kitty-party culture of the diamond-flaunting class. Which is not to say that Menon puts the salaried middle class on a pedestal. Their paisa-pinching habits like claiming leave-travel allowance while sitting at home, or submitting fake medical certificates and inflated travel bills, get spoofed as hilariously as the fat cats who romanticise their early years when they rubbed shoulders with their sabziwaalas

This is not a self-help book that motivates you to exercise, meditate and de-stress. Nor does it give tips on how to rise up the corporate ladder. Quite the contrary. Killing Yourself to Stay Fit is the quirky heading of a chapter that has a strapline saying: “Wanting fab abs is fine but it doesn’t make much sense to keep running for your life.” Thus demolishing, in one fell stroke, all those health pundits who urge you to run daily with a speedometer attached to your body.

Spoofing well-known happiness gurus “who pontificate in accents redolent of strong South Indian coffee” on the perils of worrying, Menon declares that these pop philosophers have turned a perfectly natural mental state into Public Enemy One; thus causing us to worry about worrying.

Studded with metaphors, puns and racy one-liners that draw from the lives of people as diverse as Alia Bhatt and Aryabhatta, the book makes you feel good about all that is wrong in your life, even celebrating severe character flaws. “Because very little in life seems to be making sense, it’s smart to bet on nonsense,” assures the writer consolingly. 

Deadpan, he tells you in yet another delightful chapter, “Like overeating, over-exertion and overdoing anything, overthinking is also injurious to health.” Blaming philosophers like Descartes, who famously said, ‘I think, therefore I am,’ for the human race’s bad habit of overthinking, Menon points out, “Like the junk that tends to accumulate in the loft, much of what we think about is meant for disposal.”

The writer’s outrageous takes on problematic situations certainly lighten their weight. Have you ever thought that your well-deserved promotion was held back because your cabin faces the staff toilet and not north by north-east as does the lucky fool’s adjoining cabin? Is Menon promoting the cause of Vastu experts or knocking the bottom off of money-spinning theories, you wonder as you chuckle your way to the next chapter.

Pretentious bosses, name-dropping braggarts, incorrigible bores, fence-sitters, misers, zealots, hypocrites…the list of those Menon lampoons is long. If playwright Ben Jonson entertained English audiences with his comedy of humours in the 16th century, Menon cheers us, desis, up in the 21st century with his funny-side-up portraits of characters that populate our part of the globe. With more than a little tongue-in-cheek help from writers, philosophers, sportsmen artistes et al from different centuries across the globe, to support his irreverent views. The slug to the book’s title aptly says: “How to brew this, that and everything else.”  Jairam N. Menon does, indeed make a strong brew of this, that and everything else, sparing nobody and nothing as he keeps the kettle on the boil.

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