Set in the backdrop of the Mumbai monsoons, That Thing Called Love is an offbeat romantic novel revolving around the dark side of love- unrequited love, brazen betrayal, covert prostitution and the concept that homosexuality is becoming a fad. The plot is full of bitter-sweet ironies- the most predominant irony being that all the characters are struggling with faltering relationships during the monsoons, which has been traditionally considered the most romantic season.
Mayank, Anil and Vishal working with a leading matrimonial website ironically are haplessly grappling around their own set of problems around their own life partners. After having failed to find his life partner from a matrimonial website, Mayank very reluctantly agrees to get married to a girl chosen by his parents. This intensifies Mayank's search for true love, which he, ironically, seems to find in a happily married older woman Revathi. Vishal, a senior journalist, with the matrimonial website who 'virtually rapes women with his eyes' doesn't think twice before being physically infidel to his wife to the extent of deriving strange pleasure by betraying in love. Anil's wife continuously sheds her emotionally baggage from a past broken relationship of hers, leading husband and wife to drift apart both emotionally and physically. "But it must be difficult for a married man to live in this unfulfilled manner," observes Anil's gay friend Akash as he tries to lure him into a one night's stand of homosexual sex.
The novel explores relationships in the contemporary, urban set-up of Mumbai against the backdrop of changing moralities. The preface says: that an underlying consumerist streak has crept into the post-liberalization era including personal relationships.
In the novel, couples are seen fighting over minor differences which they deem irreconcilable differences and refuse to adjust to foster harmony to their relationships. "Well it's just that my wife and I are two very different people. She despises non-vegetarian food. I love it. She loves dogs. I hate them. She is an extremely reserved person, and I freak out in parties. With such disparities, it is but obvious that we would end up fighting, which we do." Very true with what goes on in real life.
In fact, an urban metropolitan reader may easily be able to relate to the dynamics governing the rising complexities in relationships. For instance, 'time pass' dating with women who could be friends and not just wives is portrayed with verisimilitude. Misunderstandings which arise when one gets close to a 'professional friend' leading a happy family to become an unhappy one, is something many families may be growing through. The demarcation between a 'friendship' and a 'relationship' are increasingly getting blurred in real life exactly as described in the book.
The author uses some innovative phrases in his debut novel. Thane is described as 'Mumbai's backyard'. One of the characters realize that his wife is no more a 'virgin out of marriage'. A 'bachelor's den' seems to aptly describe a venue where guys get together to have a blast- 'watch a movie together, often an ex-rated one, and follow it up with drinks and dinner.'
Indeed there's a film in this book. So it's of little surprise that this newly launched novel is already in the process of being filmed. After all, 'that thing called love' is something which all of us have experienced in some form in our lives and can easily relate to.