Book review

Can a formula romance in the Raj era have anything to do with colonialism or Bollywood (or both)?

Read Alice Perrin’s melodramatic love triangle with Britain’s colonisation of India as its backdrop. It will make you wonder about some things.

“India was to blame for everything.”

Here’s a Bollywood romance, set in the British Raj. You may go ahead and picture Amrish Puri as a pompous, antagonising old husband, married to perhaps a young, naïve, and unwitting Dimple Kapadia. And then to complete the eternal and absolutely necessary triangle, you may add an equally young Feroze Khan as the lustful and good-natured lover.

The only problem: these are white people, and they are in India only as a part of Britain’s colonising mission. Regardless of this minor setback, however, the characters in Alice Perrin’s Star of India are as flamboyant and as flat, at times, as those in any mainstream Hindi film.

The quote above is the realisation reached by the young (rather too young) protagonist, Stella Crayfield. Stella, in all her eagerness to experience the exoticism, sensuality, and goodness that is India (to her), agrees to marry a man thrice her age so that she may travel to India as his wife. Soon, however, Stella comes to learn of all the meanings of all the things: husband, marriage, servants, sahibs, ladies, India.

Amidst little tables full of tea and cupcakes, around a piano imported from Germany, across the pages of a romance starring the Raja George Thomas, and with loud dusty winds blowing outside, Stella Crayfield comes to confront the smallness that seems unquestionably to be her part in life and her part of life. Unlike the word she reminds us of, there is nothing stellar about this life. Nothing stellar except the windy, filmi passion ushered in by Philip Flint, Stella’s Feroze Khan.

Following the formula

Alice Perrin’s novel is arguably a good novel, which also goes to mean that arguably it is not. It presents an attractively uncomplicated, black and white foreground against a far more complex background. And that seems appreciable for an airport lounge read like this one. But the mounting simplicity of the plot, and its overall stance as a historical predecessor of the Mills & Boon romance, make a very good case also for abandoning it in said lounge. But this is only predictable: predictability is to blame for everything.

If you are the kind to be bored by formula, then you should know the formula of what happens to those bored by formula: they keep returning to the formula. Perrin’s novel very much follows a formula, a Victorian one, a gendered one. You know what is going to happen next, and you also know not to blame the blurb on the back that perhaps spoiled it for you, telling you in advance that Philip Flint appears to raise a storm in Stella’s teacup marriage. One realises how serious I was when I described this novel as the M&B love story’s relative.

The background must be discussed: India, and India as the background to Britain’s industry, Britain’s selfhood. Colonisation is given to us as a given, a rightly assumed truth, much like patriarchy is today. Far from being the ladder men use to climb to their zeniths, it is the ground on which those ladders stand. Perrin rightly describes colonialism, at one point, as a biological component, a current in the Briton’s bloodstream. What happens as a result of this normalised background of colonial violence is that we learn to see how it could be normal.

Alice Perrin
Alice Perrin

Ghosts of our past

The very norm, in fact, the very thing to aspire to: becoming a sahib, a colonel, a pucca gora. Learning that the lesser the natives understand you, the more they respect you. Perrin utilises an episode of dark violence to paint better her rosier foreground: Stella, roaming the ramparts of her plush house one night, confronts noises apparently being made by ghosts. Whose ghosts? The ghosts of the people murdered during the Mutiny, again apparently.

This rumour is confidently asserted by Stella’ neighbours and colleagues. Her sudden and sweeping horror at this truth, that countless (but also carefully counted) men, women, and children were killed as a part of her husband’s job, makes one wonder at Stella for a minute, and then for a much longer time at the truth of colonialisation.

Granted, what was happening in India was physically far, far away from what was happening in Britain, and that privileged people in both countries did not cease to use their privilege because one of these countries was torturing the other. But were people so complacent about colonisation that they preferred simply to look the other way as if it were a mere funeral procession they had encountered in a traffic jam? The answer is yes, and it would be sad if it wasn’t so understandable.

But interesting things happen to Stella herself, and to her husband and to her lover Philip Flint, things acutely representative of the Victorian-Indian way of thought, foreshadowing the moral, the lesson always, and the novel is worth reading for these interesting things and this morality which, if you think enough, can also become an interesting anachronism to study. And in any case, who said Mills & Boon romances are all that bad? So many people, you say? Well, this is not a Mills & Boon romance. It is a Mills & Boon roman. Give it a try, you might end up appreciating Bollywood more.

Star of India, Alice Perrin, Speaking Tiger Books.

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Top picks, best deals and all that you need to know for the Amazon Great Indian Festival

We’ve done the hard work so you can get right to what you want amongst the 40,000+ offers across 4 days.

The Great Indian Festival (21st-24th September) by Amazon is back and it’s more tempting than ever. This edition will cater to everyone, with offers on a range of products from electronics, home appliances, apparel for men and women, personal care, toys, pet products, gourmet foods, gardening accessories and more. With such overwhelming choice of products and a dozen types of offers, it’s not the easiest to find the best deals in time to buy before your find gets sold out. You need a strategy to make sure you avail the best deals. Here’s your guide on how to make the most out of the Great Indian Festival:

Make use of the Amazon trio – Amazon Prime, Amazon Pay and Amazon app

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Load your Amazon pay wallet; there’s assured 10% cashback (up to Rs 500). Amazon will also offer incremental cashbacks over and above bank cashbacks on select brands as a part of its Amazon Pay Offers. Shopping from the app would bring to you a whole world of benefits not available to non-app shoppers. App-only deals include flat Rs 1,250 off on hotels on shopping for more than Rs 500, and flat Rs 1,000 off on flights on a roundtrip booking of Rs 5,000 booking from Yatra. Ten lucky shoppers can also win one year of free travel worth Rs 1.5 lakhs.

Plan your shopping

The Great Indian Sale has a wide range of products, offers, flash sales and lightning deals. To make sure you don’t miss out on the best deals, or lose your mind, plan first. Make a list of things you really need or have been putting off buying. If you plan to buy electronics or appliances, do your research on the specs and shortlist the models or features you prefer. Even better, add them to your wishlist so you’re better able to track your preferred products.

Track the deals

There will be lightning deals and golden hour deals throughout the festival period. Keep track to avail the best of them. Golden-hour deals will be active on the Amazon app from 9.00pm-12.00am, while Prime users will have access to exclusive lightning deals. For example, Prime-only flash sales for Redmi 4 will start at 2.00pm and Redmi 4A at 6.00pm on 20th, while Nokia 6 will be available at Rs 1,000 off. There will be BOGO Offers (Buy One Get One free) and Bundle Offers (helping customers convert their TVs to Smart TVs at a fraction of the cost by using Fire TV Stick). Expect exclusive product launches from brands like Xiaomi (Mi Band 2 HRX 32 GB), HP (HP Sprocket Printer) and other launches from Samsung and Apple. The Half-Price Electronics Store (minimum 50% off) and stores offering minimum Rs 15,000 off will allow deal seekers to discover the top discounts.

Big discounts and top picks

The Great Indian Festival is especially a bonanza for those looking to buy electronics and home appliances. Consumers can enjoy a minimum of 25% off on washing machines, 20% off on refrigerators and 20% off on microwaves, besides deals on other appliances. Expect up to 40% off on TVs, along with No-Cost EMI and up to Rs 20,000 off on exchange.

Home Appliances

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Our favorite pick on refrigerators is the large-sized Samsung 545 L at 26% off so you can save Rs 22,710.

There are big savings to be made on UV water purifiers as well (up to 35% off), while several 5-star ACs from big brands will be available at greater than 30% discount. Our top pick is the Carrier 1.5 Ton 5-star split AC at 32% off.

Personal Electronics

There’s good news for Apple fans. The Apple MacBook Air 13.3-inch Laptop 2017 will be available at Rs 55,990, while the iPad will be available at 20% off. Laptops from Lenovo, Dell and HP will be available in the discount range of 20% to 26%. Top deals are Lenovo Tab3 and Yoga Tab at 41% to 38% off. Apple fans wishing to upgrade to the latest in wearable technology can enjoy Rs 8,000 off on the Apple Watch series 2 smartwatch.

If you’re looking for mobile phones, our top deal pick is the LG V20 at Rs 24,999, more than Rs 5000 off from its pre-sale price.

Power banks always come in handy. Check out the Lenovo 13000 mAh power bank at 30% off.

Home printers are a good investment for frequent flyers and those with kids at home. The discounted prices of home printers at the festival means you will never worry about boarding passes and ID documents again. The HP Deskjet basic printer will be available for Rs 1,579 at 40% off and multi-function (printer/ scanner/ Wi-Fi enabled) printers from HP Deskjet and Canon will also available at 33% off.

The sale is a great time to buy Amazon’s native products. Kindle E-readers and Fire TV Stick will be on sale with offers worth Rs 5,000 and Rs 1,000 respectively.

The Amazon Fire Stick
The Amazon Fire Stick

For those of you who have a bottomless collection of movies, music and photos, there is up to 60% off on hard drives and other storage devices. Our top picks are Rs 15,000 and Rs 12,000 off on Seagate Slim 5TB and 4TB hard drives respectively, available from 8.00am to 4.00pm on 21st September.

The sale will see great discounts of up to 60% off on headphones and speakers from the top brands. The 40% off on Bose QC 25 Headphones is our favourite. Top deals are on Logitech speakers with Logitech Z506 Surround Sound 5.1 multimedia Speakers at 60% off and Logitech X300 Bluetooth Speaker at 58% off!

Other noteworthy deals

Cameras (up to 55% off) and camera accessories such as tripods, flash lights etc. are available at a good discount. Home surveillance cameras too will be cheaper. These include bullet cameras, dome cameras, simulated cameras, spy cameras and trail and game cameras.

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Interesting finds

While Amazon is extremely convenient for need-based shopping and daily essentials, it is also full of hidden treasures. During the festival, you can find deals on telescopes, polaroid cameras, smoothie makers, gym equipment, gaming consoles and more. So you’ll be able to allow yourself some indulgences!

Small shopping

If you have children, the festival is good time to stock up on gifts for Diwali, Christmas, return gifts etc. On offer are gaming gadgets such as Xbox, dough sets, Touching Tom Cat, Barbies, classic board games such as Life and more. There are also some products that you don’t really need, but kind of do too, such as smartphone and tablet holders, magnetic car mounts for smartphones and mobile charging station wall stands. If you’re looking for enhanced functionality in daily life, do take a look at the Amazon Basics page. On it you’ll find USB cables, kitchen shears, HDMI cables, notebooks, travel cases and other useful things you don’t realise you need.

Check-out process and payment options

Amazon is also offering an entire ecosystem to make shopping more convenient and hassle-free. For the festival duration, Amazon is offering No-Cost EMIs (zero interest EMIs) on consumer durables, appliances and smartphones, plus exchange schemes and easy installation services in 65 cities. HDFC card holders can avail additional 10% cashback on HDFC credit and debit cards. Customers will also get to “Buy Now and Pay in 2018” with HDFC Credit Cards, as the bank offers a 3 Month EMI Holiday during the days of the sale. Use Amazon Pay balance for fast and easy checkouts, quicker refunds and a secured shopping experience.

Sales are fun and with The Great Indian Festival offering big deals on big brands, it definitely calls for at least window shopping. There’s so much more than the above categories, like minimum 50% off on American Tourister luggage! To start the treasure hunt, click here.

This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of and not by the Scroll editorial team.