Much like the term “Amreekan Desi” cannot be applicable to the entire Indian Student Population in the U.S, Atulya Mahajan’s eponymous book can’t be expected to speak about all of them. At best it is a dry, often matter of fact, recollection of events in a bunch of students’ post graduate lives abroad as seen through the eyes of its protagonist Akhil Arora.
Though it does not come under the coveted category of “Unputdownable”, the book is consistently readable and you would find yourself flipping pages more readily than you would have thought. The plot is something anyone can think of but what works in its favor is that it is not pretentious and rather is comfortable with its lack of ambition and surprisingly honest about it being an underwhelming work of art.
If you are looking for stereotypes, you are in for a thanksgiving here, as the book is loaded with them. Back home there are the snack eating, parantha loving neighbors in Delhi and relatives who tend to take gibes at our “heroes” through comparisons with their own offspring. On the other side of the seven seas there is the good boy hero who works hard and succeeds in love at the end, but not before suffering a minor heart break and resisting suggestive passes from a femme fatale. The average Joe who is in the States for bikini-clad girls, beaches and Pamelaji in no particular order, helpful seniors and a stern but compassionate professor at the FSU to complete the players list. The plot points and twists are of the randomly thought out, happy-ending variety, but there is not enough wit or imagination to make them memorable, as the author takes the easy way out of each one of them. However, some incidents like the first Subway debacle (Incidentally I ordered Veggie Delight myself and hated it), the first Wal-Mart experience will strike a chord with anyone who visited the country.
The “good” guys get well-paid jobs, fall in love, finish their Masters , draw higher salaries (and probably write a book about it all) while the “bad” ones booze, end up losing jobs and money chasing girls, mess up their love lives in general falling for the wrong kind. There were some fleeting references to the subject of racism in India and the States, parental pressures of ambition and comparison on children, a brief verbal exchange about religion, but this is strictly not a place for any of them and accordingly none of them are insightful or explored with any apparent sincerity.
I haven’t read any book in a single day after Karan Bajaj’s two books and Mahajan’s Amreekan Desi is memorable for me since it features in that list. As I said, this is an easy read and is not at all taxing on your language skills – which might mean different things to different people.
So then, Amreekan Desi is the kind of book that you would want to get out of your way and I don’t necessarily mean by reading it. But if you happened to read it, you won’t regret it, not too longer anyway.