Libraries Of Leaders: Books That India’s Leading Female Comics Love To Read
If laughter is the best medicine, comedians are nothing short of doctors. This week on Libraries of Leaders, we take a look books that occupy the shelves of some of India’s most popular female comedians, a.k.a laugh doctors.
From love stories, nostalgia-inducing classics to economics… here’s what Aditi Mittal, Anuradha Menon and Mallika Dua recommend.
The stand-up comedian is one of the first women in India to enter the profession and is best known for her comedy special “Things They Wouldn’t Let Me Say”.
“My reading habits are really bad,” Mittal told BloombergQuint, trying to choose between numerous books, standing next to her bookshelf. With her ongoing tour and irregular timings, she hasn’t been able to read as much as she’d like to, but is trying to fix that.
Here are some of the books that have made an impact on her.
1. Delhi Calm by Vishwajyoti Ghosh
Set in the time of the emergency, the book gave Mittal an insight on how the “mechanisms to manipulate conversations have evolved”. The book was one of the first graphic novels that she read and is a combination of powerful words and illustrations. Moreover, it gave her a clearer picture on how lives were affected during the emergency, a time period she has always been fascinated with.
2. Born Standing Up by Steve Martin
The book explains why the Hollywood actor and comedian, Steve Martin, quit the industry at the peak of his popularity. Apart from it being a good read, Mittal also took away a couple of important life lessons from Martin’s experiences. Firstly, she learnt not to take heart breaks too seriously. Another take away was that “one should be so good that people can’t ignore you”, she said, talking about how the author was frequently questioned about his non-social lifestyle.
3. Wealth Of Nations by Adam Smith
A part of her school’s curriculum, Mittal never actually read the book when she was suppose to. But now, she is fascinated by economics and points out how it is much more of a social and behavioural science than anything else. “Economics is a part of every decision we make, there’s always some incentive,” she said.
Best known for her alter ego Lola Kutty, Menon shot to fame as a video jockey for Channel V. After playing the Kanjeevaram-clad character for seven years, Menon is now doing theatre and simultaneously working on her stand-up comedy.
Here are the books she recommended.
1. Norwegian Woods by Haruki Murakami
“The novel is all about love, loss and longing that coalesces in that special Murakami way,” Menon told BloombergQuint. It is the story of a college student’s romantic development, accompanied by dealing with the loss of his best friend. She is grateful that the book brought her back from years of reading lethargy.
2. One Hundred Years Of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Having done literature in college, Menon felt that the constant dissection of a literary piece sucked the joy out of reading. “This book toppled that,” she said. Narrating the story of a town named Mocando, the book gives a glimpse into the lives of Latin Americans, love, lust, war, revolution and death.
Magic realism transformed the mundane.Anuradha Menon, Actor And Comedian
3. Open by Andre Agassi
Written by one of the most popular figures to ever set foot on a tennis court, the book goes through Andre Agassi’s life’s journey -- his fears, failures, training, relationships and success. She describes the book as “heart-breakingly brave, honest and human”. Also, reading the book will change one’s perspective on the player and certain matches forever, she added.
Mallika Dua shot to fame with her Instagram and Youtube video ‘Shit Delhi People Say - Sarojini Nagar Edition’ and cemented her presence with ‘Make-Up Didi’. Originally from South India, Dua is popular for her impersonations of typical Delhi stereotypes. A voracious reader and a theater artist, she enjoys reading a good love story and the works of Shakespeare. Here are the books she suggests.
1. Those Pricey Thakur Girls by Anuja Chauhan
Dua said the book gave a great insight on ‘Barakhamba Road’ during the pre-liberalisation period. She likes the book because it sheds a different light on places she now frequently visits and also because it mentions her school.
2. Like Water For Chocolate by Laura Esquivel
Described as a “hilarious read” by Dua, the book is a love story set in a Mexican family. The story is part-comedy and part-drama, she told BloombergQuint. What takes the narrative forward for Dua though, are the recipes in between.
3. The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri
The book sheds light on the strained ties between generations, while narrating the story of an Indian family that moves to the U.S. Dua read the book at a time when she was about to leave home for further studies. The book, she said, resonated with her deeply.