New Delhi: It's unfortunate that author Atulya Mahajan's 'The Masters of America' will always be compared with writer Anurag Mathur's quirky guide to surviving in the US - 'The Inscrutable Americans' - mostly because Mathur got it out first.
If you have read 'The Inscrutable Americans', you will appreciate the struggle that Fresh off the Boat (FOB) Indian immigrants face in the mythical land of opportunities and Mahajan takes the campus story forward, weaving in some real characters into a narration that is breezy, informal and unpretentious.
The story is split between two Indian students who are from vastly different economic backgrounds and share equally dissimilar career aspirations. Akhil Arora and Jaspreet Singh aka Jassi aka Jazz aka Jazzminator share an apartment as they pursue Master of Science degrees at the Florida State University.
Mahajan, himself a Computer Science graduate from the University, wistfully records through his protagonists the cultural clash that is a part of the lives of immigrants who land up in America hoping to fit in.
While Akhil is the focused one in the odd bonhomie with his seniors, roommates and Indian women students on the campus, Jaspreet is in the pursuit of an entirely different goal that involves Pamela Anderson (hilariously referred to as Pamelaji throughout), beer, spring breaks, wet T-shirt contests and Indian realisations of the epic American Pie moments.
Many authors have written about the big American Dream. But Mahajan, who goes by the pseudonym 'Amreekandesi', nicely captures the moments of self doubt, discomfiture in embracing an Indian identity in post 911 America and the pleasure of being young in a land where youth is unburdened with familial pressures.
Quirky anecdotes, easy laughs and an easy pace nicely compensates for the slightly tautologous narration and an unnecessarily stretched romantic plot (that seems right out of the Vicky Donor script) between one of the protagonists and a Bengali female student.
Overall, a thumb up for 'The Masters of America' that makes you smile and occasionally even guffaw. If you were ever a student in 'Amreeka', it will make you nostalgic about the life that you left behind - filled with an exciting promise of abundance.
'The Masters of America'; Publisher - Random House Publishers India Private Limited; Pages - 310; Price - Rs 199
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