Comedy of wealth: The Windfall by Diksha Basu
The Windfall is a funny and often sweet novel set in Delhi and America about money, social pressure, and what really makes someone happy. Anil Jha has made his fortune selling his website to an American start-up and he and his wife Bindu are moving to a more expensive area of Delhi. From their small flat where the neighbours are at close quarters to their new bungalow with its own gate, it is a big jump, especially when their new neighbours are so engrained in the world of money and privilege. Mr Jha finds himself unable to do anything but compete with these neighbours in increasingly ridiculous ways, and all the while he and his wife worry about their son Rupak, who is at college in America and not doing as well as they believe.
Basu’s novel is a classic comedy of manners, with the excesses of the rich mocked whilst gently poking fun at those who attempt to imitate it. Mr Jha’s obsession with appearing to fit in with and one-up the rich people he can now compete with is both ridiculous and endearing, with the narrative never quite laughing at him too much. Mrs Jha is the novel’s heart and possibly its best character, a woman who is uncertain about their move and about the American world her beloved son now lives in, but who ultimately wants the best for her husband and son, as well as supporting her widowed friend Reema as she tries to give her life a fresh start. It is the kind of comedy that revolves around the characters and their idiosyncrasies as it depicts the ridiculousness of wealth and the way that cultures blend and change in the modern world.
This is a comic novel not to be missed, a book with endearing and amusingly relatable characters that pokes light fun at money and rivalry whilst showing what it might be that actually makes people happy. It is a classic comedy of manners with a modern, globalised edge.