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Monday, June 10, 2013

Book Review:“Amreekandesi - Masters of America” by Atulya Mahajan, Random House India, 2013.

My rating: ●●●½

“Amreekandesi - Masters of America” by Atulya Mahajan, Paperback, 310 pages, Ebury Press, Random House India, 2013, Rs 199/-.

Atulya Mahajan’s debut novel “Amreekandesi” is the story of two Indian engineering graduates, Akhil and Jassi, who set out to the US (Florida) for their Masters degree in computer science (therefore the subtitle “Masters of America”). As persons, Akhil and Jass (or “Jazz”, as he prefers to be called) are poles part but their dream of changing their lives for the better unites them and takes them from their harried middle-class existence to the Promised Land. While Akhil dreams of coming back to India after his MS and thus return to his roots, Jazz would rather stay put in his dreamland, bidding good riddance to bad shit forever. The novel is a saga of their struggle to get into Amreeka, coming to terms with the American way of life, finding (and losing and finding again) love and lust; and, may be, even a wife.      

I approached the book with lot of trepidation as the subject seemed jaded and my experience with Indian English fiction has not been very satisfying of late. The book kept on lying around the house and silently sulked until I finished my current read, a much awarded work of fiction by a Swedish author. Finally, “Amreekandesi” found a place in my car, where I do most of my reading during long commutes between Delhi and Gurgaon.

“Amreekan Desi” is a breezy read that keeps you engaged, despite the oft-repeated subject. The author deals with an ordinary subject with sincerity. The first thing that impresses is author’s choice of the two main characters, of which one (Akhil?), I suspect, is styled on the author himself. Akhil and Jassi are your everyday North Indian students with Stars and Stripes in their eyes, who must live their Amreekan dream to wash away all sins that accrue from studying in a not-so-good-college or belonging to a not-so-well-off family. They are so easy to identify with. Next is author’s nuanced eye. He nicely captures the minor details of various characters’ personal quirks and situations thereby imparting authenticity to the proceedings. Less than half way through the novel and you begin wishing that Jassi stops tumbling from one amorous misadventure to the next and finally finds succor in Pamela Anderson’s cleavage; and, Akhil and Nandita’s fledgling love meets a happy ending.

Like a Bollywood film, after the interval, the story powers ahead on steroids and after a bevy of heartbreaks and lucky escapes, the jigsaws of the various actors’ lives finally fall into place. Akhil’s visit to Nandita’s parents in Kolkata is quite ‘filmy’ but endearing and ups the emotional quotient of the story. The laughs are not big; rather, you will chuckle your way through the book.   

For me, the test of a good book is how many characters or situations from the book stay with you. Akhil, Jassi, Nandita, Priyank, Kedar, Dilpreet, Brad and Victoria manage to do just that.

Atulya Mahajan (aka @amreekandesi) graduates with honors with “Amreekandesi”. Let us wait for his Masters degree now.

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