The Cinderella Dream (or Why Men Will Just Never Get it!)

The other day, I was having an argument with the husband and the son, both men who try very hard to see the world from the female perspective if only to anticipate what I am going to be up to next. The argument began because both of them were emphatic that wealthy men do not fall in love with their cooks, as my hero, Ranbir Dewan, does in A Scandalous Proposition (ASP).

“True romance needs an economic divide,” I told them. “The wider the gap, the better. There has to be love enough to bridge the gap. That’s why Pretty Woman works. Every girl is looking for a Prince Charming.”

“Not today’s girls?!” said the son disbelievingly.

“Even today’s girls,” I said firmly. “And it’s not just the traditional Mills & Boon TDH (tall-dark-handsome) formula they are looking for. [Nobody in India at least wants anything to do with dark, except retailers of fairness creams!] They want a man who will pamper them, spoil them and give them a lifestyle they can only dream about. They want their own fairy tale!

“Remember the nursery rhyme?” I continued. “‘Curly locks, curly locks, wilt thou be mine? Thou shalt not wash dishes, nor yet feed the swine, But sit on a cushion and sew a fine seam, And feed upon strawberries, sugar and cream’. That about sums it up.”

“So what’s in it for the men then?” asked the husband. “It seems to me like a lot of giving and very little getting.”

I had no immediate answer. The son may be grown up, but no parent is seriously convinced their child is not still impressionable, and the argument I was taking up was not travelling along a track conducive to producing a ‘happily ever after’ scenario for the young man in the car.

“It’s not quite as mercenary as I’ve put it,” I began slowly, belatedly trying to make amends. “See, it’s about biology [when in trouble, turn to Mother Nature!]. A girl will automatically be attracted to a man who is not only attractive, but also able to provide for her and her children. So, a rich man is attractive biologically too. But when a man is attracted to a girl, he looks at her body—breasts, hips, legs—again because those are the signs of fecundity, signs that she will be able to continue his lineage.”

The son gave me one of his famed ‘Really Ma?’ looks. The husband stopped himself from also doing so just in time.

“Well, let’s look at your own book, ASP,” he said. “What does Ranbir see in his cook?”

“First of all,” I retorted. “Mira is not Ranbir’s cook. She is an English literature graduate. She is working in the office canteen because she loves cooking and because she needs money to support her family. At Dewan Kutir, she enters the kitchen only when she is asked to. She is independent, ambitious and entrepreneurial, as she shows when she takes up the annual conference dinner proposal.”

“But what does he seen in her?” persisted the husband.

“Ranbir is a traditional-minded man, even though he does not realise it himself. He may be spoilt by all the attention he is used to getting, selfish like most young men his age are.” I ignored the piercing look I got here. “But he has been brought up by his Dadi and, somewhere along the line, her values were instilled in him. When he hears about Reema and Tarun, he takes Dadi into confidence and then moves ahead with the plan to get them together. He thinks Mira is a pest till he sees how devoted she is to her sister, how concerned about her well-being. It echoes his own feelings for Tarun. He is further impressed when he sees how tactfully she handles the situation with Maharaj.”

“But he’s so stupid he needs his Dadi to spell it out for him,” pushed in the son gleefully. “What a wimp!”

“He’s a typical man who can’t see what’s under his nose,” I said with a straight face. Both men were silent. Score one for me.

The son was the first to recover. “But you said women are naturally attracted to rich men. Mira’s not attracted to Ranbir because he is rich. She’s quite happy till he starts invading her space.”

I sighed. Sometimes, it’s tough being a woman among so many men.


Why Mira and I Love Food

I am Mimmy, author of A Scandalous Proposition. I thought you might be wondering why there’s so much food in my book, so let me tell you about it.

I went at food the way I do most things in life—the wrong way. After a childhood spent looking malnourished, I progressed quickly to the other end of the spectrum post-pregnancy. Years of hostel life insured I knew nothing about cooking. But I spent a good part of my professional life as a food critic. I learnt first-hand from some of the top chefs in India and abroad how they get this particular nuance or that particular undertone to a dish. It helped that I have a very keen tongue that finds it easy to puzzle out the spices that went into any dish.

But I still didn’t know how to cook! I used to joke that my son would never quarrel about food with his future wife because he would not want her to cook like me. Then three years ago, I was thrown head-first into the kitchen when my husband and I moved to London. No mother, no mother-in-law, no servant, just us and our growling tummies. You can bet I learnt to cook double-quick! A ladleful of help from the Internet and today, I can actually cook amritsari chhole that would give any self-respecting Punjabi dhaba a good run for its money. I now find I love cooking, especially if I can set my iPod to loud and drown out everything else.

When I got around to writing A Scandalous Proposition, I was willing to let my characters do pretty much as they wanted. I was sure of one thing, though—there had to be a food element in my book. And this is why Mira Talwar, though she’s not a cook, loves cooking. And when she and her family are in dire straits, she takes the ‘food’ route to sustain them financially. And bumps straight into Ranbir Dewan.

Mira is innovative, full of bright ideas and loves to experiment. Often when I thought of her it was in the kitchen, trying out some new twist to a dish that would later have her family drooling over it. So she is able to produce a vada manchurian and a green mango salsa with great elan.

Mira looks down on what she calls firangi food, but she is conscious that a lot of the time, Indian food can be unhealthy. So she hunts for ways in which she can make it healthy and tasty.

When she lands the job of cooking for Dewan Industries’ conference dinner, Mira is so excited that all her personal turmoil gets shoved onto the back burner. She realizes that this is not the right occasion to innovate, but she can’t resist trying out one teeny little experiment—and so she comes up with the idea of topping rabri with whipped cream.

If you want to know more about Mira’s adventures with food and, of course, Ranbir Dewan, go read A Scandalous Proposition. For Mira actually lives the adage that the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach.