Saturday, 28 March 2009


ANITA AND ME is Meera Syal's debut novel, and was first published in 1996. It is a semi-autobiographical novel which won the Betty Trask Award. The story revolves around Meena an Indian Punjabi girl with a funny hair-cut (the "me" of the title) and her relationship with the white Anita as they grow up in the fictional Midlands village of Tollington in the 1970s. The book was also made into a film and Meera Syal wrote and co-produced the movie as well as acting in it (she played the role of Auntie Shaila). (Source: WIKIPEDIA)

Syal has been very successful in the UK and her works have included her second novel, ‘Life isn’t all ha ha hee hee’ (I have read this too), which was made into a miniseries and starred Syal as well. She can also be accredited to the hit TV shows, ‘Goodness Gracious Me’ and ‘The Kumar’s at No 42’. Her first screenplay, ‘Bhaji by the beach’ was directed by the acclaimed Gurinder Chadha (who made ‘Bend it like Beckham’ and ‘Bride and Prejudice’).

ANITA AND ME captures the trials of Meena (the ‘me’ in the title), a precocious girl growing up in a working class suburb in England. Meena’s parents have emigrated from Punjab and like most new immigrants, are quite insular in their way of life. They get along just fine with the English neighbourhood but are rarely invited or invite the neighbours to their house. Meena on the other hand is caught with a foot in both worlds. She adores the local brat Anita and thought that all her Christmases had come true when she was accepted into Anita’s gang. Anita soon realises that her ‘troubles’ are trivial compared to those of her friends and the sacrifices her parents made in order to have a better life in England. The undercurrents of racism are done just so. They are not glaring and they seem entirely plausible.

My complaints about the book are Syal’s constant need to be witty and the never ending British colloquialism. I actually found that quite exasperating. Also, the stereotyping of the family nucleus – Meena’s family is portrayed as a close knit family whilst the opposite is the case for her Caucasian friend Anita. I guess those undercurrents were probably essential to the plot.

As a whole, I did enjoy the book.

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