Welcome to Arjun Ahuja’s world. Arjun, the eldest of 13 children, is desperate to show Aarti, the girl who rides the bus, that he is a rock star like Bryan Adams (who to Arjun’s dismay is highly criticized online). But, Arjun is too busy with his role as a third parent and frustrated by the fact that his parents keep making more babies. To make matters worse, Arjun discovers that Sangita Ahuja, whom he believed to be is mother, is mother only to Arjun’s 12 (and one on the way) siblings. Arjun’s mother, Rashmi, died when Arjun was just a few years old.
Meet Arjun’s father: Mr. Rakesh Ahuja is Delhi’s Minister of Urban Development. When is not busy with his ‘genocide war’ on traffic lights and his determination to create a flyover that will ‘reinvigorate traffic flow’ in Delhi’s suffocating city, he is an involved father battling his demons – his attraction to his wife, mainly when she is pregnant, and the secret that his present wife is not Arjun’s biological mother, Rashmi, whom Mr. Ahuja continues to love.
Family Planning is an insight into the chaos and politics of a large family, with the siblings fighting to be top dog in the family, or trying to gain leverage over other siblings. Family Planning paints a realistic picture of the usual turbulences of growing up, from impressing the girl on the bus by polishing up your rock band to learning how to understand your parents. These glimpses into the interpersonal relationships of family life parallel the equally awkward and manipulative politics of Mr. Ahuja’s work and his own dealings with other officials.
Despite some unabashed and perhaps overly detailed descriptions of some sexual situations between Mr. Ahuja and his various wives, Karan Mahajan has an easy storytelling style as he portrays the comedic, awkward, complicated relationships of parents and children of a busy and blended family in a busy city. Mahajan also effectively portrays aspects of the Indian culture – from the sounds, smells and sights of the busy city to the food, language and hierarchical system at home. Family Planning is an insightful visit into the Ahuja’s household and culture and makes for a satisfying read for those who love the intricacies of human interaction.