Akhil Arora, a young, dorky engineer in Delhi, cant 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 roommates 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.
Atulya Mahajan, who also runs the humor/satire blog Amreekandesi.com where articles about Indians living abroad and their experiences are posted, has penned down his first novel by the same name, Amreekan Desi. Alternatively titled, Masters Of America.
The story is about the intelligent, hard-working Delhi-boy, Akhil, who has bagged the admission in Florida State University and is eager to get away from the protective jail that he has been living in all his life. He wants to live life on his own and prove to the world that he can survive on his own too. He wants to finish his education, land up a great job, work for about 5-6 years and return to India. He is patriotic that way.
Then, there is Jaspreet Singh who believes that America is the best. He wants to go anywhere out of India and what place is better America, the land of Pamelaji and American Pie? He has goals already set in his mind and wants to spend his time in America, banging girls. He also changes his name to Jazz to sound cool and he doesn’t want anything to do with India, let alone returning to it.
Such distinct personalities with different desires, goals and visions end up being room-mates.
How do they acclimatize to the new environment, the difficulties they face, the cultural differences, differences in lifestyles, the vastness of the cities, the expensiveness of the cities, etc forms the rest of the story.
There is an under-developed and mal-nourished love-angle to the story too. Akhil falls in love with a Bengali girl, Nandita. As cliched as it may sound, Akhil’s parents are wary of the new Bengali neighbors back in India and warn him not to bring home a Bengali girl; and Nandita’s parents are not too fond of Punjabis either, whom they consider as loud, arrogant and obnoxious.
[Oh yes, something on the lines of Chetan Bhagat’s 2 States.]
How Akhil and Nandita talk to their parents and the hardships they face in convincing their parents and whether they get to be together or not, also forms the major part of the story.
The third major part of the story is the life of Jazz and his harried experiences with the women of America. His experiences in New York, at different lounges, strip-clubs and if he is really that desperate as to knock the doors of hookers or not and whether he changes his vision and desire love over lust?
The beauty of the novel is in all those funny anecdotes that make you nod in acceptance.
Be it the annoying neighbors who can’t stop singing the praises of their children in front of our parents, be it the racists in both the countries, be it the restrictions of parents, be it the dreams and aspirations that are shoved down our throats by our parents, be it the stereotypes in both the countries.
Also, since the author has himself lived in America for a while, it seems he has taken it as his moral obligation to dispel the (mis)conceptions that people have built about India and America.
He explains in detail about the concepts of children raising their parents in their old age in India and how children are encouraged to leave the houses and live on their own once they become adults in America.
He also dispels the preconceived conception that life in America is all rosy and everyone has a happening life over there. Also, the notion that all women there are available.
His writing is simple and easy-to-follow. The novel needed a bit of proof-reading though, as there were some printing and grammatical errors.
Also, much editing was required as the novel simply drags a bit which could have been easily toned down.
Ironically, the chapters that needed detailing were simply rushed through and the chapters that could have finished in short were prolonged to include the anecdotes.
Although, you easily identify with all the characters, after a point you simply stop caring about them. You don’t feel the emotions or passion that you are supposed to feel at different parts of the novel. You don’t feel a thing when Akhil becomes Devdas when he doesn’t get to contact Nandita for over 2 months or when Nandita asks Akhil to move on or when he attempts suicide. The sole reason is that there is not much chemistry between the characters which could’ve been developed but isn’t.
Over-all, a decent and a light read.
“This book review is a part of The Readers Cosmos Book Review Program.
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