Of Coffee & Bad Dates: Khushnuma Daruwala On Her New Book
When Khushnuma Daruwala learnt that her friend had been on over 50 dates via matrimonial sites, she was shocked. From stalkers to men who turn up in tiny shorts to guys with mommy issues to guys who discuss their bowel movements, these stories are bitingly funny, painfully awkward and will put a smile on anyone’s face. They are told from Dia – a 30+ city girl’s perspective. Though she is perplexed to discover that finding a partner can be so difficult, she is determined not to settle for less.
Here are some excerpts from our interaction with Khushnuma:
What did you hope to achieve through the book ’50 Cups of Coffee’?
I had a great laugh when I heard my friend’s stories. Everyone has suffered a bad date. This book is about celebrating all those mad and bad dates.
What is unique about the dating scene in India?
The apps here are a bit more conservative. In the West, the dating apps are absolutely out of the world — there are apps which match compatibility based on whether you like the same burrito toppings!
I have seen that a huge amount of youth go back to arranged dating. In the West, dating has more of a romantic connotation. Here, the tone is more interrogative, it is like resume-checking. Indeed, people even send in their resumes, and that formal structured language has creeped in even when talking about dating. Dating in India is formal and goal-oriented. There are rarely any romantic overtones, and questions like do you drink, what is your diet etc are commonplace.
What was the most funny or interesting incident that stood out to you?
Strangers discussing S&M, men discussing their bowel movements, so many things. What struck me was the absurdity of how people crossed boundaries. How what was socially acceptable was so routinely broken. The crazier the story, the better for me!
Why is being single in the thirties considered a state of panic for a woman? Can you talk more about that urgency to get married?
This is changing a little bit in urban India. Unfortunately, there is a lot of societal pressure on a woman to have certain physical characteristics and to produce children. Men are also supposed to be ‘well-settled’. The gender norms and stereotypes are unfair on both sides.
You found a publisher after four years. Can you take us through that process — how you went about finding a publisher?
I started sending out proposals after I had finished the first 2-3 chapters. Many responded, saying it wasn’t a match, some didn’t respond at all. Pretty soon, I had run out of all my options. It just so happened that I was attending a book launch, and met someone from Penguin. They put me in touch with my editor who wanted to take the book on. It happened by chance, but the learning for me is to never give up. You never know when opportunity comes your way.
What was your writing process like?
I just started collecting all the stories people gave me, and I saw certain themes emerge. I knew that I did not want to turn this into a typical romance novel. The book went through many iterations.
Why only bad dates from a girl’s perspective?
It just so happened to be from a girl’s perspective because that is how it started. But while writing the book, I heard plenty of bad date stories from my male friends as well. Even if I don’t do a sequel from a guy’s perspective, i will definitely at least write an article from a guy’s perspective!
At the end of the day, marriage isn’t the end all and be all of everything, says Khushnuma.