When a book is a fictionalised memoir, one would expect that the author has taken creative liberties to keep the plot tight or weave it in a way that engrosses readers. One definitely does not expect it to read like a diary as Gauri Jayaram’s Wise Enough To Be Foolish does.
The blurb claims that the book is the journey of an Indian girl’s life, from an insecure child into a confident woman. It begins with a prologue that introduces 26 or 27-year-old Gauri to readers. She has just discovered that her marriage is on the rocks - her husband, whom she never passionately loved - is dating another woman and she is devastated.
The first chapter begins with how the author always loved history as it provides the back story to the present - a context. Following this statement, is another telling readers that to gain perspective of Gauri’s situation as described earlier, it is essential to start with history. Thus, the account of her life begins at the very beginning - her birth.
Second chapter on, the reader is led through her childhood years, when Gauri was too young to fathom why her brother had privileges that her sister Nandini and she did not enjoy, her struggles with playing football and academics and her first crushes and later relationships, among other things.
Though the story has a happy ending, as the honest account of the writer’s life reveals, the problems that did not allow for a warm, supportive relationship between her parents and her remain unresolved.
When she moves back to Mumbai for her job, it is with the awareness that her parents’ house is no more home and that she will always go back only as a visitor. This is despite not being married yet, which for women of most other traditional Indian households holds true after they become brides and go live with their husbands.
Gauri’s yearning to see the whole world makes her take up a job with the travel industry. About her first job and first trip abroad (to Berlin) she writes:
I went to the (Mumbai) airport in the evening and...I missed my flight.
Unbelievable, right...As life progressed, I missed many other flights, and it was rarely because I reached the airport late. I could write another book altogether on my missed-flight episodes...
And one might wonder if this would have made a more interesting storyline - if the anecdotes were made snappy and witty - or whether her love for travelling, which has taken the author places, could have materialised into a more interesting travelogue.
On the whole, an easy read that one can finish in a single go - one does not get stuck in between the story and the journey is a smooth one, albeit not very gripping.