By Sangeetha Bhaskaran May. 28, 2021
Anuja Chauhan has often been miscategorised into romance fiction even though her works stretch beyond that realm. In Club You to Death, she channels her love for Lutyens’ Delhi and curiosity toward rich-people problems and turns it into a murder mystery. This book is the perfect respite from the pandemic-induced seriousness and keeps you hooked for a lazy afternoon read.
Anyone capable of writing a book during the pandemic, deserves our respect. And if it’s one that keeps you entertained and evokes a giggle every few pages – then they are worthy of our time.
Anuja Chauhan wrote Club You to Death during the lockdown, over a span of five months. She channelled her love for Lutyens’ Delhi and curiosity towards rich people problems into a murder mystery. Chauhan has previously expressed displeasure in being typecast as a romance writer (although she does it so well). In CYTD, the love triangle plays second fiddle to the murder investigation that digs into the crème de la crème of Dilli, only to discover that they are, in fact, just a falooda of insensitive, power-hungry, nonsense-spewing folks.
She channelled her love for Lutyens’ Delhi and curiosity towards rich people problems into a murder mystery.
The hoity-toity members at Delhi Turf Club (DTC) are suddenly inconvenienced when a buff gym instructor named Leo is found dead under a collapsed barbell. The ladies, young and middle-aged, are distraught by the loss of eye-candy and their immediate concern is – “Ab Zumba kaun sikhayega?”; the existing club election-related hullabaloo is churned further when those running, Urvashi Khurrana and Mehra (also known as “Behra Mehra” because of a Line of Control breach during an Indo-Pak tussle) are deemed prime suspects; a savant inspector, ACP Bhavani, and his misogynistic sidekick, PK, gather information from easily loosened tongues. There is not much logic. Once you accept that the journey is meant to be more fun than the destination itself and don’t obsess about logic and plot holes, you’re good to go.
Right from the beginning when we meet the Dogras who are en route, to a high-stakes tambola game at the club to the entry of ACP Bhavani at the murder scene and his ongoing investigation that uncovers prejudices and whims of club folk, Chauhan wants to remind us not to take ourselves too seriously. The writing is easy and engaging, littered with Hinglish that is both hilarious and insightful of characters’ personalities. I can solemnly swear that I laughed so hard I snorted when I read these phrases “suck up to their boozy boujee bua”, “khoon all over the kilim-kaleens”, “she is quite namkeen-looking”, “toota-phoota antique piece”, “deep in the marshy, Chyawanprash-y mire”, “some dhakkam dhukki also happened”. Even the chapter names are a hoot (Case in point “Very, Very Over-smart”, “The Hottie-Culture committee”, “The Ghia-Lauki Gang”).
The writing is easy and engaging, littered with Hinglish that is both hilarious and insightful of characters’ personalities.
Chauhan pulls you into the elite club-culture, where endless plates of shammi kababs and chhole bature float past you and entrepreneurial women create phallic-shaped pieces from stone and metal under the label “Shivbling”. Then, ever so slyly, she slips in the nuggets of commentary on nationalism and politics, socio-economic divides, camaraderie among women who are both supportive but can’t help being envious of each other’s skin, and post-partum bodies. The IJP is a political party from “dhokla-land” that frowns upon beefeaters and wants to tear down the ancient parts of Delhi to make its own statement. Characters say things like “These baniyas are all the same” and “It’s always awkward with these in-between types. People who are not quite your social equal, but higher than drivers or maids.”
Kashi Dogra, a self-made lawyer and oddball in his image-conscious, gossip-loving family, and ACP Bhavani, a rare sort of cop who wants to do his job as considerately as possible, are the proverbial outsiders to the club’s shenanigans. They present themselves as the antithesis to this palette of brash insensitivity and intolerance.
I do wish there were less of Kashi bumbling about like a puppy behind his childhood sweetheart, Bambi Todi (seriously – is there an app that generates these names? If so, I want!) He is a self-made lawyer who helps underprivileged people fight unwinnable cases and is in a serious relationship with architect girlfriend (as Kashi’s mother fondly describes as “JNU Ki Bangalan”). Hence, this Bambi obsession made little sense to me.
As a reader, I find the whole genre system of bracketing books into romance, coming-of-age, mystery, or horror an oversimplification of an author’s work.
As a reader, I find the whole genre system of bracketing books into romance, coming-of-age, mystery, or horror an oversimplification of an author’s work. I get why Anuja Chauhan is sometimes irked when labelled as a romance novelist who loves using Delhi as her playground. CYTD is sixth in her body of fiction work. In her previous novels, she has explored multiple themes like India’s cricket-craze, real-estate quarrels, politics, empowering sisterhood. To call Club You to Death a mystery novel is just a matter of convenience, not the entire truth.
In addition to that, I wish that the editing had been more crisp; CYTD did not have to close at 400+ pages. The second half isn’t as snappy, there is some repetition, unnecessary monologues, and a “let’s stretch this out to build the tension” intent which doesn’t really materialise. Yes, the characters are fleshed out well, the dialogues and setting are on point, my interest was piqued. But why overcook the masala? Maybe that’s why I was a teeny bit unenthused by the big whodunnit reveal.
Regardless, if you’re looking for respite from the pandemic-induced seriousness, feel free to pick up Club You to Death. It is best consumed on a lazy afternoon with a fancy-named cocktail in hand. And I guarantee that you will get some solid advice like “#MeToo ka jamana hai. Don’t get into a battle of words with a woman” and “I don’t recommend murdering anyone”.
Good to know na?
An accountant turned writer who hoards handmade soaps and notebooks. Author of No time to moisturize, a parenting page & Half Boiled Indian, a collection of stories from the returning NRI perspective. Dogs complete me.