Publisher: Random House
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I am in a flight from Ahmedabad to Hyderabad, and fortunately unfortunately the only book I have in my bag is “The President is coming” by Anuvab Pal. I vaguely remember seeing the few glimpses of the movie based on this book featuring Konkona Sen Sharma, so I am already a little biased towards the book, as my favorite actress chose to act in a movie based on it. I decide to devote my flight duration to this book almost religiously. So here are few advantages about reading this book, one you will finish it in one hour thirty minutes that is how long the flight from Ahmedabad to Hyderabad takes, two because it absolutely fits and misfits as a book –because it is short lived in your memory, it does not have any life changing impact on the way you think and still it manages to tickle, titillate and twist your imagination in a sporadic manner and three most important of all it has a satire on almost everything a contemporary Indian intellect struggles with.
There is this idea of the “Other” we all have. Every Indian at the core of his head and heart has invested his time and energy, in forming an opinion about the west; irrespective of the fact the opinion is good or bad. This very much is the essence of what the novel is about, that none of us escape the influence of THE west. The novel is about the US President, George W. Bush’s visit to India in 2006. There needs to be chosen a young Indian to shake hands with the president. Six uniquely exaggerated versions of a typical young Indian compete for the opportunity of shaking President’s hand. So we have an IIM graduate, a software engineer, a brilliant novelist, a self-obsessed and overtly pampered entrepreneur of the fashion world, a person suffering from OCD about stock market and the last but not the least a person giving training for proper English accent. The book captures the irony and queerness of the contest conducted to choose the best amongst these six. The absolutely unnecessary tasks set for these six are extremely overwhelming at times.
Anuvab very sarcastically and meticulously decides to name the judge of the contest as Samantha short Sam, nick Aunty Sam. Isn’t US popularly known as Uncle Sam?? The author uses popular TV channels and celebrities, changing their names like Barkha Dutt becomes Charkha, NDTV become MDTV to actually bring the real to the fictional world. Who wins is probably for you to find out? But one thing is for sure, this book is more like a caricature. In a caricature, the cartoonist plays on the anomalies of human faces by exaggerating them in his drawings. This is what Anuvab so blatantly and liberally does throughout the book; he picks one anomaly and blows it out of proportion to draw our attention towards it. There is nothing normal about writing satires, it is a very crude form of writing not because it lacks consciousness but because it is aware that only way to sustain an idea is to make it irritating and absolutely difficult to be ignored.
Read this one book because now is the time to pause and decide why our goals so western, why our dreams so Anglicized and why we need their approval (even if it is just a handshake) to establish our credibility. This book might not be the best piece of writing but it is bound to make you think. That’s not bad isn’t it??