Author- Atulya Mahajan
Publishers- Random House
Amreekan Desi- 'Masters of America' is a novel by Atulya Mahajan. It's the coming-of-age story of two boys with polar opposite versions of the great American dream. The novel falls in the genre of that light hearted humour aimed at a younger audience with life lessons subtly wrapped in little chunks of wisdom gained from experiences without being too preachy. In a way it's similar to the writings of Chetan Bhagat and Ravinder Singh but is different, read superior in terms of the language and wit. The author doesn't try too hard to be funny and dramatic which works in favour of the book.
About the Author
The author, by profession is a technologist at an investment bank. (Ooo... big shot)! He also used to write for the Times of India- Crest Edition which as I am typing this review has been withdrawn from the market. Crest was a good paper, I think it wasn't just marketed properly. Ok, I am diverting from the topic, coming back to the author- the acknowledgements and "About the Author" note at the end of the book reveal a bit of the author's personality. His innate Delhi-ness and his love for aloo-paranthas are out in the display. He playfully chooses just the right words to create a funny picture in mind. This sense of humour can come only after experiencing such things first-hand; which leaves me wondering how mischievous exactly would the author have been during his graduation and post graduation years.
About the Cover
The cover has been given a bright, light humourous red and yellow color theme. Adorning the cover page are photoshopped images of two Punjabi quirky lads. One has been given the body of Uncle Sam while the other is making a funny face, most probably plotting a strategy to score an "Amreekan" chick. The page is replete with American symbols of Statue of Liberty and Coca Cola along with the quintessential "Rock On" hand gesture. It all draws the reader toward the book while establishing the thematic limits of the plot. A fresh change from some other books of the same genre with boring covers. Oh and did I mention, the funny shades on the protagonists, the author's name and the symbol of Coca Cola are embossed!
About the Story
The story is about two guys Akhil and Jassi who reach the Florida State University with different dreams in their eyes. Akhil has the dream to succeed in life with a serious approach toward things while Jassi is the free-spirited, India-hating, US-loving guy whose only goal in life is to "get it on" with some firang chicks in a pool or on the beach. Both lead tumultuous lives with ups and downs and what finally becomes of them is the essence of the story. Akhil is the clear protagonist of the story with most of serious action happening around him. There are myriad other characters falling in various classifications like FOBs, ABCDs etc as classified by the desis in America. The only connection between Akhil and Jassi is that they are roommates but as their stories progress, they seem to be intertwined with each other destined to reach where they eventually do.
The constant switching from one storyline to another is sometimes not smooth. It's like flipping the TV remote watching American Pie and Swades simultaneously but the content in the storylines keeps the reader hooked. The plot seemed to be in a hurry at places as if the author had planned for a certain event to happen at a certain point of time. This hurry shows in the language and sometimes leaves room for some explanation. Explanations are given and all the loose threads are sewed together which gives me a doubt that maybe the book was edited 'too much'.
I was able to predict the future events in the novel but it didn't put me off for a second because of the wit and humour used by the writer. The "love" angle got quite filmy and the whole "Project Kolkata" chapter had me slightly nauseated as I was reminded of numerous Bollywood movies based on such impossibly romantic characters. But if you let the characters grow on you, I think there are times when this simple book powerfully makes you misty eyed with the sheer strength in its characters.
The book although establishes many stereotypes about Punjabis, Bengalis, Parents, Indians in general, Americans in general, Afro-Americans, Chinese people but is quick to break all of them. It does have a universal appeal due to its anti-racist nature and the stereotypes are only there to serve their one and only motive- providing fodder for humour.
There is a mention of nudity, sex and strip clubs in the book but they are not used to titillate the audience. I hope all the budding authors take note from this one. This is a book that sells itself based on its content and not anything else. Good job!
Quality Of the Book
Random House as always, has done a great job bring out the book with almost zero typographical or grammatical errors. The pages are crisp. No printing mistakes. Nice readable font and good lucid language. This book is good value for money. My heartfelt thanks to +nimi vashi for giving me this amazing opportunity.
***1/2 (Three and a half stars out of 5)
At the end I leave you with this clip of mine where I thought I was making a funny face for a still photograph but actually the camera was on Video mode- go ahead, laugh at me-