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.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Mr. India - Evergreen Dialogues

 Mr. India, which released in 1987, was a movie quite ahead of its time; what with a scientist producing a gadget which makes one disappear on wearing it. How many of us wished we owned something like that :)

In addition to some fabulous songs which the movie had (my personal favourite has to be Hawa Hawaii :)), it also had some outstanding dialogues. Some which have stayed with me are:
  • Yeh football ab court jayegi. Court kyun jayegi; wahan toh koi football khelta nahi.
  • Tum yeh aise ho, aise kabse ho? Bachpan se.
  • Tum yeh sab kar rahe ho, kisliye kar rahe ho? Paisa (Very profound statement! Aren't all of us doing what we are for money?)
  • Toh kya tum kehna chahte ho ki paise ke liye har koi chor ban jaata hain?
  • Ghar; ghar ke aage balcony; balcony ke aage garden; garden ke aage samundar.
  • Yeh seediyan dekh rahi hain? Yeh seediyan neeche se upar jaati hain aur yehi seediyan upar se neeche aati hain. Kamaal hain!
  • Do din ke bookhe bachhe kya shor machayenge memsaab.
  • Arun bhaiyya, hum ek din khaana nahi khayenge toh mar nahi jayenge.
  • Chalo isi bahaane salary toh mil jayegi; kaunse rang ki hoti hain?
  • Gayi bhains paani main :)
  • Chaliye Arun bhaiyya ghar chaliye; ghar jaakar in kankaron main se chawal nikalne hain.
  • Sir, yeh bachhe hote hi kyun hain? Sab log agar bade hi paida hue toh?

10 life lessons I learnt from my father

They say a father-daughter relationship is quite special. The father is the first man in a daughter's life and she looks upto him; every daughter idolizes her father and wishes she would eventually get married to someone like him. Every father treats his daughter like a princess and dreads the day when he has to see her get married off.

I, too, adored my father. I have inherited quite a few traits from him including my looks, my love for reading and photography and an insatiable appetite for films and all things related.

The 10 things I learnt from my father are elaborated below:

1. My father taught me the importance of reading. It is from him that I have picked up this wonderful habit which has turned me into a voracious reader. He would always make it a point to read something daily even if he returned late from office. He believed reading not only opens up our mind but also makes us better human beings.

2. My father introduced me to the wonderful world of photography. I remember him carrying his huge camera along with the tripod on all our vacations and clicking innumerable pictures of us. Till today, nobody has clicked me as beautifully as my dad. To him, photographs were a way of preserving the current enjoyable moments for the future.

3. Through my father I fell in love with quotations. My father would keep these diaries into which he would note down any quotation which he came across which interested him. Occasionally, I go through his old notations; searching for him within the pages. I still follow this habit - noting down any line from a book that I am reading into a notepad.

4. A love for music is something that I picked up from my father. He was extremely fond of listening to old songs; every night, he would switch on the radio or the tape recorder and we would be listening to Muhammad Rafi/Kishore Kumar songs. He had a huge collection of cassettes. Not just listening, I also picked up a sense of appreciation - to know who the lyricist, music director, singer is.

5. My father taught me the pleasure of travelling. With him, we have traversed the icy peaks of Kashmir; taken a boat ride in Ooty; enjoyed the peaceful life in Madgaon; seen what a king lived like in Mysore. Not just outside the city, my father taught me to appreciate the many wonders the city that we live in - Mumbai - has. He was of the opinion that travelling introduces us to various cultures and expands our horizons.

6. I learnt from my father that all celebrities are approachable and friendly only if you are brave enough to approach them. He would seek out businessmen, politicians and film stars at functions and ask for their autograph also seeking to be photographed with them. There's a huge collection of him with people as varied as Bal Thackeray and Asha Bhonsale. I have inherited this mad craze for celebrities and the courage to approach them from him.

7. My father taught me the importance of spending time with the family. He would always make it a point to take us out on a weekend. We have explored places such as the Mayor's Bungalow, Aarey Milk Colony, Bandstand, Gateway of India, etc. with him. This led to the formation of a strong bond between us as a family.

8. I learnt the virtue of hard work from my father. He was known to be a disciplined worker in office. His dedication and passion towards the job shone through. He was a no-nonsense worker when it came to his tasks and was appreciated by his superiors for this quality.

9. My father taught me the importance of volunteering. As children, we would observe him stepping forth to help the not-so-privileged sections of society. He showed us the satisfaction one gets in giving back to society. To him, it came naturally and effortlessly; he never made a big deal about it.

10. I learnt to be an active member of the building complex in which we live from my father. Where most tenants would crib about the policies and facilities available, my father worked on the managing committee helping to resolve the issues and make life simpler for the residents. He never shied away from his social responsibilities. This endeared him to all the members of the building and their families.

I would like to end the blogpost by this song from Heartland; it perfectly encapsulates the feeling a father has for his daughter:

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