Sunday, June 30, 2013

Book Review: Amreekandesi – Masters Of America by Atulya Mahajan

Amreekan Desi is Atulya Mahajan’s first book. Like many other Indians, Atulya, too, went to the US for his Masters in 2004 and started writing a blog chronicling the lives of Indians living abroad. The book is the culmination of that blog.

The book’s blurb reads: “Akhil Arora, a young, dorky engineer in Delhi, can’t wait to get away from home and prove to his folks that he can be on his own. Meanwhile in a small town in Punjab, Jaspreet Singh, aka Jassi, is busy dreaming of a life straight out of American Pie. As fate would have it, they end up as room-mates in Florida. But the two boys are poles apart in their perspectives and expectations of America. While Akhil is fiercely patriotic and hopes to come back to India in a few years, Jassi finds his Indian identity an uncomfortable burden and looks forward to finding an American girl with whom he can live happily ever after.

Laced with funny anecdotes and witty insights, Amreekandesi chronicles the quintessential immigrant experience, highlighting the clash of cultures, the search for identity, and the quest for survival in a foreign land.”

The author’s writing style is easy-to-read and he has painted a very vivid and true picture of life in the US, especially for first-time Indian students. The whole experience of trying to find an apartment, good room-mates, going shopping for Indian food, the thrill of seeing how grand Walmart is for the very first time, the Indian mentality of converting dollars into INR, etc. is well brought out. The author has also elaborated quite well on the college culture – some students are there to taste the free life, some are there to study, some experiment with drugs, some with the opposite gender, etc.

I also quite enjoyed the part where the students take off on short weekend trips across the US. The imagery has been portrayed in a good manner. The relationships between the room-mates, the boys and their prospective girlfriends, students and their professors, etc. have been developed nicely. The part about how Akhil feels when he comes to India for a break has also been explained well - the contrasts between the US and India.

The negatives for me were firstly that there were quite a few typos in the book; proof-reading could have eliminated those. Secondly, it felt that the book was a little stretched and the same topics were being repeated. Thirdly, I found the whole “Indian boys going all crazy for American women” bit a little far-fetched, especially in the 2000s.

I am going with 3/5 for this book; it basically offers nothing new but makes for a good, light read. Maybe people who have absolutely no idea about American life in general and student life in particular would enjoy reading about the experiences detailed in the book. For the others, it is just a reaffirmation of all that they already know.

Note: I was provided a review copy by Random House India.

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