About the author:
Anurag Mathur is an Indian author. He lived in the United States for three years before returning to India. This is his first foray into fiction.
A cartoon representation of the big city, with its lights and skyscrapers is the cover art for this novel.
My thoughts on the book:
Ah! Humor… the genre that, if executed well, brings a sense of relief even to the tired mind. It is so easy to get this genre wrong; a perfect example is one of the books I reviewed earlier this month. To read humor and burst out laughing is the best feeling, I tell you.
A newspaper commented on this book, “This book is a boisterous, if comical celebration of India and America.” I can’t agree more. You know, one of the first things that come to mind when you look for humor in India, the desi style, is the bungled English. I know no one is perfect, but that language issue is one that people find funny. The incorrect usage of words in a sentence, and the wrong ordering of words that give it a totally different meaning, these are so common that we might have done it ourselves at some point in time. To take a desi boy to Amreeka, and still maintain that desi touch in language, the effect is definitely comical. Take Gopal’s letter that he sends home, to India, to his parents and brother. You read a few sentences, and you would definitely laugh.
The book brings to us, the story of Gopal, a simple desi chap who fears God (along with his mother and grandmother). Gopal goes to the United States, having no experience or understanding of Western culture, other than what he has been told, or what he has heard. How he expresses his experience of the Western world is what makes this book the humorous success that I feel it is. From falling in love with a billboard, to his terrible English, this simple chap is the heart of the story.
The book is not a message oriented one. It is not meant to compare India and America. The setting and time has changed. Some of the norms and such that are in the book have changed now, twenty two years past the time it was first published, so it may not hold true still, and imagining the book in this present background only lets our expectation down. Read it thinking of a boy from that era, and an India of that era, and it might still be relevant. It is set at a time when a dollar was equivalent to thirteen Indian rupees. The problem with it not being a message oriented book is that after a while, the character and his actions become repetitive. So the humor goes down a little. It’s not the most hilarious book I’ve come across, but it gets you laughing for sure.
Quite funny, and a book worth reading, at least for the first half of the book.
Title: The Inscrutable Americans
Author: Anurag Mathur
Publishers: Rupa Publications
Price: INR. 95
(16th Nov, 2013)