Publisher: Random House India
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Oh that American dream, harboured by so, so many of our students. Atulya Mahajan has lived that dream and come back to tell the tale. While in the US, he started a blog called AmreekanDesi in an attempt to chronicle the Indian immigrant experience in the US and has now brought out a book by the same name.
Akhil Arora and Jaspreet ‘Jassi’ Singh are our American dream-chasers in this novel. Akhil is a nerdy, Punjabi boy from Delhi who has received admission to the prestigious Florida State University. He wants to go to the US and prove to himself and his family that he can live on his own. He aims to complete his higher education, work for a few years but then make his way back to the homeland. On the other hand, Jassi who is from Punjab, sees America as that land of Pamelaji and American Pie. All he wants is to date beautiful women and settle down in America. In an attempt to shrug off his Indian identity, Jassi also changes his name to Jazz. These two Indian boys, with absolutely contrasting dreams and ideas, end up as roommates in the US leading to some amusing moments and witty insights.
The book is quite obviously inspired by the author’s own experiences. The experience of leaving home for the first time, living in a foreign land, and dealing with the inevitable clash of cultures all have been done well. The author also builds up the contrast between the characters of Akhil and Jassi quite well, without managing to make them look like caricatures. He also is successful in making them feel real. You are likely to find young students like Akhil around you, who want to study hard and earn a decent living in the US without diluting their Indian background. And you will also see lots of youngsters like Jassi who simply want to go to a foreign country to live the good life. It is this real-ness of the novel that is its biggest success.
However, it must also be said that the book offers virtually nothing new. The course of the story is quite predictable and if you read this novel, it is simply for its ‘Oh yes!’ feel. There are definitely a lot of amusing anecdotal moments, none that will make laugh out loud, but ones that will make sure you have a smile on your face right through your read. There is also a love story that is mixed into this broth when Akhil meets a Bengali girl called Nandita. The love story appears quite undercooked however, especially when the whole parents’ opposition angle is brought in. Quite predictably, Akhil’s parents don’t want him to bring home a Bengali girl while Nandita’s parents think Punjabis are loud and abhorrent. Amreekan Desi: Masters of America serves to be a nice, light, breezy read, quite suitable for one of those short train or flight journeys.