Mumbai-based writer Shunali Khullar Shroff may not quite be afflicted with Affluenza, but she’s been surrounded by so many sufferers of this affliction that she can spot the symptoms straight away. “Affluenza is a natural progression for a society that has only just experienced a rise in personal fortunes. In India, this has happened over the past two decades. The arriviste always wants acceptance in what they perceive as high society and in them symptoms of affluenza are more apparent and severe,” she observes, adding wryly though, that they often don’t realise that “the problem with a life of privilege is that it is ultimately a bubble”. According to Shunali, “Affluenza isn’t as fabulous as it looks on the outside. It isn’t exactly paradise because it leaves you with enough other problems such as a gaping void, an existential crisis, anxieties about maintaining your wealth and lifestyle and keeping up with the Joneses.”
And we see this manifested in her book, Love in the Time of Affluenza, published by Bloomsbury, quite often. The protagonist, although strong, still struggling to meet the mother-in-law’s approval, the children’s needs, the cook’s capriciousness, while trying to reassert her own lost self. The pressure of planning a party, where just the floral decorations cost as much as a minion’s annual salary but must be ‘just so’ so that the guests are adequately dazzled. The anxiety felt at social gatherings, the shifting loyalties, the casual couplings, the uncertainty about which faction to support when there are differences, the slow unravelling of life as you know it… All of this brewed to perfection and served up with a slice of wicked humour. “I think one can use humour perfectly to convey something serious,” Shunali asserts.