In their teens and early twenties, India’s middle-class girls and women must battle daily to make sense of their intensely gendered existence. They are expected to be good; yet the definition of female ‘goodness’ is punishing and psychologically unviable. Most of them are caught in a bind.
The Bad Boy’s Guide to the Good Indian Girl explores these binds with good humour and great heart.
Through linked stories and meditations, poet-journalist Annie Zaidi and writer Smriti Ravindra ask: who is a Good Indian Girl, or a GIG? And what is a GIG to do when she’s the opposite: a big?
The stories are a frothy, delicious and gossipy whirl of who-likes-who, who-said-or-did-what, and who-had-sex-with-who. Most transgressions are minor: for it is scandal enough for a GIG to accept an Archie’s card from a boy.
But there are bigger transgressions, and this gives the book its bite. There is the girl who likes girls; the girl who steals out of the house at night; the woman who fails to comply at all; and the unhappily married woman.
The reader is helped to see all the transgressors as good. GIGdom, as the authors say, “is gauged through a complex set of parameters on an unstable path.” Or, as one character observes: “These days, everybody called everybody a good girl. What did it mean?”
That is the point here. Everyone is a GIG, even when she’s a bad, bad woman.