#Books

Excess Baggage By Richa S. Mukherjee Is A Quirky New Family Drama; An Excerpt

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Excess Baggage by Richa S. Mukherjee is the story of an unconventional family, a mother and daughter who are constantly at loggerheads owing to the baggage of their painful past and the incongruent choices that they have made through life. An Excerpt: 

‘So, what is this trip you want to go on and why?’

‘The mere construct of that question is offensive. I’m thirty mom, but you treat me like a child.’

‘Great. You’re young enough for me to manage your smelly socks and laundry, figure out your meals and run the house for you, but too old to have any say in your life?’

‘I would gladly do all those things. You asked me to move in with you remember?’

‘So what? I don’t mind that you’re here. But you treat me with contempt, like Mutton did when she first came in.’

‘This isn’t about Mutton.’

‘But it is. Like you, I think Mutton’s basic nature is rage. I also think small dogs are generally ferocious. If she was a Kohli, she would be much nicer.’

Kohli?

‘Yes. You know the white, friendly ones?’

‘You mean like Ramesh Kohli uncle from the general store?’

‘No no. The white, fluffy ones, with long hair and those long cone-like faces.’‘You mean Collies!’

‘Yes, that’s what I said, Kohlis.’

Anviksha felt a headache coming on. ‘You’re digressing. Let’s come back to the trip. I would’ve told you. It all happened very quickly.’

‘That’s exactly what you said both times you wanted to get married Anu.’

‘Can you circumscribe your mission statement to not constantly pummel your daughter for her mistakes?’

‘Circum… what?’, Smita Punjabi scrunched up her nose in confusion, then continued. ‘I’m not targeting you Anu. I just feel partially responsible, like it’s in your genes or that I set the wrong example because I’m a divorcee. Tell me, did you by mistake think that divorce is some kind of family legacy to be carried on?’

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‘Does that even warrant a response?’

‘Just wanted to check,’ Smita Punjabi shrugged. ‘Anyway, get back to your trip please.’

Anviksha drew a long breath and continued. ‘I’ve not been feeling right in my heart or head for a while now. It’s like I’m possessed.’

Smita Punjabi’s eyes widened slightly at the credence lent to her evil spirit theory. Anviksha continued. ‘I wanted to get away from all of it for a little while and decided that a trip might help.’

‘You saw Zindagi Na Milegi Dobaara didn’t you?’ Smita Punjabi beamed with a sparkle in her eyes. ‘Huh? ’‘I knew it. I saw it was on the recently watched list on Netflix. Do you know how many times I’ve watched it myself?’

‘I thought that remote confuses you.’

‘I have friends,’ said her mother mysteriously.

‘Again, this isn’t about Netflix and we are digressing. Can we ever stay on track?’

‘Sorry. So, you’re going to London? You’ll be staying with Preeti I hope? Tully would be upset if she found out you were not staying with her daughter.’

‘I might. It’s odd though. On one hand you sometimes say Tully masi wants to usurp your clothes business and use the money to open beer bars in Gurgaon. Then you want me to stay with Preeti.’

Arey! But what does that have to do with anything. Family can loot each other but family is family after all.’

‘This relationship of yours is beyond me.’ Anviksha shook her head. ‘Anyway, don’t worry about my accommodation. Once I’ve planned it all out, I’ll share the detailed itinerary, phone numbers, dates and—’

‘Take me with you beta!’

Anviksha became mute with shock. When she finally found her voice, she spluttered, ‘Mom. I’m going on a solo trip. That means ALONE.’

‘I’m not anyone. I’m your mother. The one who gave birth to you, remember?’

‘How could I forget? You don’t let me. And that’s not important right now. I can’t take you mom. Please. I need to go alone.’

‘I’m not asking you to take me to Kedarnath or Badrinath. Just on a small trip to London.’

‘Who are we kidding? You have never wanted to visit any gods outside your puja. The char dhams were never on your bucket list.’

‘That’s inconsequential. The main point is I’ve never forced you to do anything with me. Just let me come with you on this Zindagi Na Milegi Dobaara trip. Please!’

‘Mom, this trip is nothing like the movie. There is no wishlist. There are no fears to conquer. I want peace, quiet and some alone time. That’s it.’ Anviksha hoped her lie was glib enough.

‘How can you say no to your mother?’

‘I am not going to succumb to emotional blackmail or this Reema Lagoo “watery-eyed” mother routine.’

‘I am not acting. I am hurt. The first thing I ask of my daughter and she refuses.’

‘Firstly, it is NOT the first thing. And for a moment, if I were to indulge you, I am going to Europe. There will be a lot of walking, the weather might not suit you. My accommodation or travel choices might not be to your liking. You’re … of a certain age you know.’

‘So what? I’m in better shape than most people my age. I’m walking around, running a house, earning my livelihood, handling myself admirably. Now contest that. C’mon.’

‘Who will handle your business for a month? If your competition gets a whiff of this, they’ll steal your clients.’

‘My clients are clients for life,’ smirked Smita Punjabi confidently. ‘Nothing catastrophic will happen in a month. You’ll have to do better than this Anu.’

‘This isn’t some stupid game mom. You’re diabetic, with BP issues. You have trouble walking.’

‘Pooh! I carry my insulin pack, every person on this street eats BP medicine and all it takes is a small painkiller on some days to take care of the knee pain. Anything else?’

‘I—’

‘I’ll take care of everything so you can sit in another room and sort your life out. It’ll be amazing. Trust me.’

‘The tickets are all booked out.’

Smita Punjabi fished out her phone and punched a few keys. ‘Siri putt, ticket options from Mumbai to London.’

Siri vomitted the list of websites that offered ticket-booking options.

‘You’re on Instagram. You talk to Siri. Is there some other part of your secret life I don’t know about?’

‘Now you know how I feel being treated like an outsider?’

‘I’m serious mom. London weather is dreary. It’ll be too cold for you, even at this time of the year.’

‘Siri, what is the weather in—’

‘Enough! Please. I don’t want to discuss this anymore. I promise I’ll take you for a trip soon. But this one has to be solo. I’m sure you’ll understand.’

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***

An hour later, Anviksha called Revati at the travel desk.

‘Hey Revati. I’m sorry for calling this late, but before you do the final bookings, I just wanted make some changes.’

‘Sure, no worries. But you’re still travelling I hope?’

‘Oh I am. Unfortunately, there will be two passengers now.’

‘Two?’

‘Yes, if you could please note the second name. Smita Punjabi. S for strong-headed, M for manipulative, I for incorrigible, T for tyrant and A for Adolf Hitler.’

Excerpted with permission from Excess Baggage by Richa SMukherjee published by HarperCollins and Black Ink.