Imagine you are a chic Manhattanite, living a Sex in the City-ish (freshly married) life filled with yoga lessons, designer duds, and your daily Starbucks hit. (I know, it’s a far cry from my life. Ever.) Now imagine your new husband’s employer “asks” him to start up a new office in a far-flung local. (Uhm–yay? I get to be a world traveler?) You think London, Paris, maybe even Amsterdam or Istanbul. Instead you get…Hyderabad, India. (Where?)
As Karma Gone Bad opens, our narrator, 27-year-old blogger, writer, and yoga enthusiast Jenny, is worried about having enough time to get a blow-out and which stilettos to pair with the gorgeous Diane von Furstenberg gown she’s wearing to her goingaway party. Though she adores NYC, she’s turned off by the trash in the gutters, rude taxi drivers, and the ‘grit’ of the Big Apple. India will be a jet-setters paradise, right? She ever-so-reluctantly packs her novel-in-progress, designer shoes, cocktail dresses, and her dog’s teddy bear for the journey of a lifetime. And her beloved dog, Tucker, of course.
Yes, dear readers, at this point I was shaking my head, too.
We know this isn’t going to go smoothly. Someone is ripe for a major wake-up call.
And that call came before she could find any coffee.
You see, coffee isn’t really prevalent in India. Not a Starbucks to be found—at least when Jenny arrives. She endures a (chauffeured) drive through the congested Third-world city only to find overpriced chai tea (costing ten times what it does for natives) —then realizes she left the house with no rupees, only a worthless AmEx card.
It takes Jenny a while to truly awaken to life in India. Her journey is as much internal as learning the lay of this strange land.
She hadn’t planned on finding “help,” but in India, she’s expected to have servants. Her driver, cook, housekeepers, security guard, and water tank watcher (you’ll have to read the book to understand that one) become stifling. She hardly ever sees her overworked husband, and she grows desperately lonely though she’s never alone.
Jenny tries to forge a sense of community through the few other corporate wives and expats who seem to have acclimated to Indian life easier, yet they’re carefully elated when their short times are up and they return to the states. Jenny is in it for the long-haul.
Now, this story could have stalled if our plucky-yet-somewhat-spoiled heroine remained stagnant in this world of frustration, desperation, and denial. But instead of withering in the Hyderabad heat, she grows.
Karma Gone Bad is a well-spun tale about discovery—not only of a foreign culture, but of self. Jenny’s brutal honesty about her decent into travel-induced depression, strained marriage, and inability to grasp her purpose in Indian life endears her to readers, but it’s her humor that keeps us going as we cross our fingers hoping she finds her way.
When I read stories of Upper West Side wives, I often feel as if I’m reading a travel memoir. These women live in a place I’ve never been doing things I can only imagine—the smells, sights, and experiences seem foreign to this suburban Floridian. Jenny’s journey from that NYC world to Hyderabad allowed me to live vicariously through her, as I’m pretty sure now I never want to spend two years in India. Visit—sure. I’ll travel anywhere. But spend two years? ::shaking head:: Though she may not have seemed it in the beginning, that girl was brave.
Karma Gone Bad will sate your travel bug and leave you laughing, worrying, and cheering as you follow Jenny’s humbling and enlightening journey. Thanks for taking us along for your beautiful, bumpy ride, Jenny.
Jenny’s Blog: Karma Contiued | website | Twitter | Facebook |
Karma Gone Bad: How I Learned to Love Mangos, Bollywood and Water Buffalo
by Jenny Feldon
Sourcebooks (November 5, 2013)