The book “Moms in the Wild” by Nidhi Raichand is a dark, funny and razor-sharp mystery thriller.
Sneha Talwar is an idealistic young reporter on an assignment to profile Natasha Babani, environmental activist and multi-talented mommyinfluencer, who has spent the last year cleaningup a polluted lake. But before she can get started, Natasha’s body is found floating in that very lake.
As Sneha swiftly changes gear and begins to dig for information on Natasha, she unearths a whole ‘mommy universe’ that thrives on its own rules, rivalries and intrigues.
Read an excerpt from the book below.
Later that night, after I’d gotten home, thrown aside my bra, gotten into my home shorts and tee, and was cooking a gourmet meal of Maggi and Fanta for Aalia and myself, my conversation with Jaya kept niggling at me. The dirt on Natasha may be off the record, but I knew I could trust Aalia with it. I would swear her to secrecy, and besides, whom would she even tell at her consulting job? According to Aalia, the only thing that perked up any interest with that lot was tips to get noticed by a senior partner or new methods to be assigned to a project abroad. Anything else was a waste of time.
‘Should I order ice cream before it’s too late?’ shouted Aalia from the dining room, or what we called the Great Hall. It was, of course, neither great nor a hall, but rather a tiny hallway that the landlord had stuffed with this massive but surprisingly beautiful eight-seater dining table. If the chairs were pulled out, one had to squeeze around them to get past the table and into our bedrooms. It reminded us of the long dining tables in Hogwarts, and hence, the tiny dining area was forever renamed the Great Hall.
‘Okay,’ I shouted back, ‘but I thought you said you were quitting all processed sugar.’
‘Yeah, from tomorrow, na? I want to have my last unhealthy meal of Maggi and ice cream tonight, and I’ll be golden tomorrow.’
For all the years I’d known Aalia before we were roommates, she was always quitting some food or the other. (We were expressly forbidden to use the word ‘diet’ for its connotations of patriarchy and other man-made evils.) So far, she had quit (and then re-embraced) meat, dairy, carbs, breakfast, dinner, breakfast and dinner, bananas, caeine, all white spirits, all dark spirits, Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat, all in an attempt to lose weight. Strike that—to get fit and be her best self. Her friends and family kept telling her that she already was an excellent version of herself, but she insisted that beneath five kilos, there lay hidden an even more superior version. And she owed it to the world—and to herself—to let Best Aalia out.
For tonight, however, I was just going to have to make do with sub-par Aalia to discuss and dissect the day’s proceedings. I told her everything: about my visit to Smita’s apartment, complete with detailed descriptions of her house and maid and green tea and delicious baked-not-fried snack, about Sana and how polished she was, and finally, about my coee with Jaya and all those revelations she had unloaded on me.
‘Well, first, you’re clearly an amazing journalist who can get her sources to spill anything and everything,’ said Aalia. ‘So three cheers to that, woman!’
‘Well, the part about Natasha being an influencer and getting her holiday for free was off the record, so …’
‘Yeah, that’s the part I want to discuss. I promise we’ll discuss Natasha properly, but I’m really puzzled about why Jaya told you any of it. If she claims it doesn’t affect your story, then why even share it?’
As Aalia was saying it a loud, I knew immediately that what had been niggling at me was not Natasha’s duplicitousness but the fact that Jaya told me about it. Yeah, sure, finding Natasha’s body had brought us together, and we did get along, but still, we’d only known each other a few days, and our relationship was mostly professional.
But instead of following that line of thought, I found myself defending Jaya ‘You know, I think she just needed to get it off her chest. I mean, it’s a pretty juicy bit of information to be carrying around with absolutely no one to share it with. And at least she was considerate enough not to sully Natasha’s reputation by telling her friends about it. Come to think of it, I kind of get why she told me.’
‘Hmm …’ said Aalia as she scraped the last bits of chocolate sauce from the indented base of her plastic bowl.
‘What else could it be? She asked me not to write about it, and I won’t. She insisted that Natasha really was as nice and genuine as everyone says she was. I think she needed to tell someone and she did, and that’s that.’
‘Okay.’ Although she was clearly not satisfied, Aalia could tell that I was done with the topic and decided to change it. ‘Dude, how does one become an inuencer with 25,000 followers and get free trips to Thailand, ya? I also want!’
‘All right, so here’s what I know. You gotta find something that’s dying, like a lake, or an art form, or a person, or a democracy, or whatever. Just find it and revive it. And you do it while being nine feet tall with perfect skin and a certication in Pilates. Although, I think, yoga might also do. Then, you post about it constantly on Instagram and spit, spot, there you have it—free trips, baby!’
‘All I heard was “post constantly on Instagram”. I think you, me and my last ice cream ever deserve to go on the Gram. Pout please,’ Aalia instructed as she angled her phone above our heads and captured us with our empty bowls. #ByeByeSugar, #Roomies, #NewBeginnings, #HealthFirst.
‘Hello? Hi, Sana, I’m well. How are you? No, no, it’s not a bad time at all. Tell me. Oh yes, yes, Jaya told me you bake wonderfully. I’d love to try some of your stuff. Oh. You have a stall at a flea market this Saturday? I see. All home chefs and mom entrepreneurs? That sounds interesting. Yeah, I don’t know if I can do an exclusive feature on you because our food reporter does that, but I’ll check if I can do a write-up on the flea market and mention your stall. Okay, sure, I’ll drop in. Yes, around 3 p.m. Trinity Gardens? Yep, done. Okay, see you.’
‘Babe, some mommy-led flea market this Saturday. Probably be boring but should have good food options sans processed sugar. Come, na! ’
‘Hey! I was thinking of going anyway. I’ll see you there. What time you planning to go?’
‘Also, I’m totes fine with processed sugar! ’
Oh fuck! Had I just sent a message meant for Aalia to Jaya?
- September 24, 2023