Chila and her two friends were brought up in London East End. Chila is not known for her beauty but for being childlike and innocent. She is not as popular as her friends Sunita and Tania as their beauty brought about suitors earlier in life. Sunita and Tania help keep Chila innocent and childlike by not exposing her to the unnecessary harshness of some truths.

Sunita studied law activism in university but halfway through her studies she traded that to get married to the love of her life, Akash. Now a depressed, overweight housewife and mom with two children she starts to rebel against life and go on her own self-discovery journey.

Tania, on the other hand, has had many suitors and lovers and literally dances through life as a high-powered career woman in television. She currently lives with her English boyfriend in the upbeat northern parts of London. She traded marriage to be an independent and carefree woman in a modern world. Tania has her own demons, which come with this type of lifestyle, to deal with. She also has her inner core shaken and is faced with many trials along her lonely path.

Chila has butterflies and still cannot fathom how she is about to get married to the best suitor, a Punjabi girl can wish for. Not only is he a successful entrepreneur but also very dashing looking and charismatic. Her parents are delighted that she is finally getting married and the status this marriage will carry with it. They can now praise their daughter on finding the most eligible bachelor in town, to consummate her life. All their worries of her not being beautiful enough to get a suitor have dissipated. This major event that she waited her whole life for sets the tone to a series of events that strips away her childlikeness and innocence. She learns about friendship, partnership, betrayal and true love.

These women are faced with difficult choices and are the direct representation of the modern women who come from cultural backgrounds that dictate what morally right decisions should appear.

I appreciated the hilarity throughout the whole book, which was comfortably braided with the sincerity and earnestness of these ladies lives. I am continually reminded of my own existence here in South Africa, being the third generation from my lineage born here in SA. It gave me great comfort knowing that other immigrants from India to other countries in the world shared the same colloquial connotations. We also called every older lady we saw, aunty and every older man, uncle. We also had a ‘keys uncle’ (an uncle that always lost his keys) or a Highway Shiela Aunty (because she was named after a ghost that roamed the streets of our Indian Highway called Higginson Highway in Chatsworth on the East Coast of SA). Not only did she have the same namesake but she also roamed our streets visiting everyone at all hours of the day and sometimes night, thus replicating the nature of her namesake ghost.

Meera Syal, the author of Life Isn’t All Ha Ha Hee Hee is an ideal author that I would one day like to adopt her style of writing, second to Arundhati Roy the author of God of Small Things. She brings color and contrast like the Indian culture is, into her expression of the descendants of Indians living in other countries. It was definitely a nostalgic read for me.

This book has been adapted to a 3 part mini-series.

Pragashnie Naidoo