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Mills And Boon Goes Local

Mills And Boon Goes Local

May 10, 2012

The Indian man may have mastered the ability to reproduce, but he still needs to master the art of seduction.

Once upon a time in Goa, a lovely maid dreamed of finding romance and adventure, just like in her beloved Bollywood films. Khushi longs to escape the boredom of her life as a hotel housekeeper, but she learned long ago never to believe in dreams. So when she stumbles-literally!-upon a handsome Australian tourist with flashing eyes and a way with words, she knows the sparks between them can come to nothing. With one week left in his yearlong tour of India, Harrison Rayne is not looking for romance. But he can't deny the special connection he feels to the beautiful Khushi, and soon he knows they are meant to be together forever! Can he convince her that love at first sight happens in real life, too?”

I read the summary of the Harlequin story with a sardonic expression, flinching at the number of ingenuous clichés. So Harlequin and Mills & Boon go local? My obsession with writing and referencing Mills & Boon has not gone unnoticed in the past. As a teenager, learning Southern European and Mediterranean Geography was much more bearable because of the Jakes, Lukes, and Nicks residing in Sicily. Even today, in the process of planning a Eurotrip, I asked my friend if a visit to Italy or Greece would ensure eyeing the most handsome men with sculpted bodies and chiseled features straight out of Mills & Boon. Talking of associations, I’ve always associated the men in Mills & Boon with power, great looks, and anything but an Indian Mediterranean origin.

My romantic conditioning was shaped by these novels (I refuse to call it soft porn for the female teenager) with clichéd happy endings and repetitive storylines. The men were all self-made, fighters, tall, dark, brooding, broad, angry, and testosterone-fired versions of Greek Gods. A good character, high paying software employment or a secure government job was not their forte (unlike many Indian men). The men were devoted to their family of four generations, usually Greek or Italian, usually called Lucio or Antonio or something akin to the label on an expensive perfume bottle. They were ruthless men on the prowl, owning art galleries, driving expensive cars, sleeping bare-torso in boxer shorts, with no pot bellies or receding hairlines and absolutely no experience of changing diapers or doing laundry.

That was the general picture, with minor and statistically insignificant variations. No wonder I could never picture a Veereshwar Mudipally, Lucky Singh, or Somnath Chaddha to fit the role of these men. No, that would be sacrilege. Veereshwar could be a genius from IIT, Lucky could be an entrepreneur, and Somnath could be a rocket scientist. But they could never be characters out of a Mills & Boon novel. Hence the synopsis of this story amused me greatly.

First, the writer has probably chosen the right location - Goa. I haven’t skimmed through the chapters (no one “reads” Mills & Boon, we “skim through” them as surprises in plotlines are rare) but something tells me it could never have been Calcutta, Kota, or Kanya Kumari. Khajuraho, maybe. Andaman, probably. Stereotypical India being the land of exoticism, mysticism, fantasy, of buxom women slithering like snakes from the land of Kama Sutra. The name of the woman had to be something sassy, like Khushi, Neha, or Simran. Not the religious kinds like Lakshmi, Parvati, Aarti, or Pooja. Not the complicated ones like Madhusmita, Mukteshwari, or Sanghamitra. Not the boring ones like Hema, Lata, and Jaya.

“Once upon a time in Goa, a lovely maid dreamed of finding romance and adventure, just like in her beloved Bollywood films.”

So she has to be the one doing a relatively unimportant and menial job of a maid. Now please do not get me wrong, I am not looking down on any job. But the segregation of jobs based on gender seems a little disturbing. He is usually the doctor while she is the nurse. He is the boss while she is the secretary. I do not know what does this “he” does here other than tour the world, but I am sure he is definitely not a chef in the neighborhood breakfast café. The reference to Bollywood is stereotypical again, given the general idea “foreigners” have of India and Bollywood (Anyone seen the show Outsourced?). Ever heard a conversation where India is all about Bollywood and Bollywood is all about Bhangra?

Lastly, the man could be European, American, even Australian in this case, but never ever an Indian. So what if the plot is in Goa? The chick might be named Khushi but the Indian man has to be “dukhi”. Indian men seem to have a low reputation in terms of their prowess and their capabilities, not considered worthy of a male lead role in a romantic fantasy novel of British origin. He might have come a long way from being mumma’s boy and is not a dowry hog or a wife beater anymore. He might be the best coder or programmer you can find. He might be the brains behind launching spaceships and doing complex math algorithms. But he cannot be trusted ‘manhandling’ a woman being thrown into a frenzy amidst passion churning on the beaches of Goa. He is the curious spectator of the events unfolding in this story. Sorry, he can see, but not touch. The Indian male still has miles to go before he can be considered worthy of a male lead in a Mills & Boon.

For he might have mastered the ability to add to the population and reproduce, but he still needs to go a long way before he can master the art of seduction.

Photo credit


  • AshtonG
    22.06.12 12:17 PM
    Dear DC & All ladies here,

    being an Indian queer male what I think about this book is that this is THE BEST thing that Mills & Boons can offer to Indian ladies.

    Indian men are really confused creatures, stuck in the intellectual transit. They wear gucci suit but don't know how to treat a lady.

    Even the new age Indian authors are also not so different. All IIT, IIMs pass outs narrating frustration of own life with nasty spices & idiotic plotting of events which makes their stories funny & rioting. But their books doesn't hold the serene fluency.

    Indian fiction is saturated within character from IIT, IIM, IT Companies, Delhi Punjabis & Tamil south Indians who fight, love, hate each other & surprisingly @ the end everything settles like magic, just like they show in Bollywood movies.

    But where is the complete focus on romance in these books?

    Mills 7 Boons gives that serene constant romance.

    Godd that she chose male antagonist as australian guy, which not delhi due by some name Rahul, ROhit, Karan!

    He being Australian his masculine details will make story more believable & catchy.

    Good work.

    Carry On!
  • Rajpriya
    12.05.12 04:42 PM
    @Atheist Indian,

    Once again you're spot on.
  • Atheist Indian
    Atheist Indian
    12.05.12 12:51 PM
    @ Rajpriya
    I read that link you posted. While it may appear that she was 'dumped' by an Alpha Male, Elon didn't come off as a player. The couple was simply mismatched and the guy was smart enough to realise that and move on. Marriage for a man like him is something of a convenience, not a necessity, since there is very little a wife could contribute to the relationship (except spending his money and complaining how 'bored' she is). Most Indians in their case would have been forced to 'adjust for the sake of kids'.
  • Rajpriya
    12.05.12 11:18 AM
    @Atheist Indian,

    I could not have described the issue better. Well best of luck with the Alpha Male as long as it lasts if it does last.
  • Atheist Indian
    Atheist Indian
    12.05.12 10:58 AM
    It was a long, verbose and winded way of putting what was in essence an ode to the alpha man who is mysterious, adventurous and worldly with a devil-may-care attitude to life; compared to the safe bet of a male that an Indian man is - safe job, committed husband and conformist to social and family values.

    At the end of the day, both Desi Indian men and women have grossly unrealistic expectations. Because of very little actual interaction with the opposite sex, they lose the grasp of reality - I see men who seem to believe that they can have a 'traditional but with a modern outlook' woman who with virginal housewife attributes and yet at the same time, a luscious vamp in bed. Yeah, right!

    The women on the other hand, want a adveturous, non-conformist seducer who would decide she is 'the one' and tie the knot before resigning himself to a lifetime of monogamy. The fact of the matter is, he didn't refine his seduction skills for only one woman and you are not the only woman who finds him sexy.
  • Rajpriya
    10.05.12 09:14 PM

    I know there is a general disappointment about finding the right Indian husband with the descriptions you have made whether it is in India or abroad. Even after finding the Mr. Right things can go wrong at any time when the dust settles down after the initial stages of a happy marriage.

    Here is a typical example of two who were poor when they met and when the intelligent husband became “The Alpha male”.
    The woman’s dream ended when he found his new toy. So watch out and I sincerely hope your dreams come true and last a lifetime.
  • Bhavna
    10.05.12 02:42 PM
    Yes totally agree with you! Indian men do not know how to seduce. They seem to be quite insecure I'd dare say. In this modern age, the expectations of us, indian women, have somewhat evolved if not increased. Mills and boons certainly provide a picture of how women would love to seduced, swept off their feet, loved and taken care of. In a similar way where porn films depicts to the man how the perfect woman should be like and behave in bed.
    It is a cruel world out there indeed. Picture-perfect men straight from mills and boons do not exist in india.
    Dridli you are a fool if you believed bollywood actresses are what indian women are all about!
  • Dr_idli
    10.05.12 02:15 PM
    Dear Devasmita,

    it's a nice piece of writing , but what still intrigues me is if you are criticizing the writing of local mills and boons or that out of a population of half a billion, none could sway you mills and boons style ?

    I do remember mills and boons to be v popular reading amongst the girls in india. the local book street vendor would be charging a reading fee of INR 5.

    But like you , I was disappointed when i was in india., the scene was completely different from the movies i had had watched before i went to the Maximum City. No sultrous attractive females roaming every street corner, less breaking into choreographed indian songs around trees and magically changing into various sexy clothing every half a minute !

    Devasmita something is certainly wrong in this world ! :)

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