The Inscrutable Americans

This book by Anurag Mathur is an unbiased and a little jaundiced look at American life seen through the eyes of a nerdy Indian student in the seventies who was suddenly dislocated from a comfortable and cocooned life in the small town he grew up in to the land of dreams..US.US was the Mecca of education at that time and still is.

The culture shock that Gopal faces is so palpable and the letters that he writes to his brother are a laughter riot. It wasn’t a time of satellite TV with 300 channels at your fingertips. When he says” I had servants to do my cooking and cleaning “one can realize the wide chasm between the east and the west.

The confrontation with the skinheads is relevant even today with the racial hatred still being a strong bone of contention. In India down the centuries there has been differentiation between caste and class but the general masses were then not educated. In the west…supposedly a cultured and emancipated society discriminates people on the basis of color…what is white, brown, black or yellow color to do with being human?

Gopal’s vain attempts at losing his virginity evoke laughter and wonderment as it is no longer relevant in the present scenario. His friendship with Randy is commendable and appreciable. The attitude of the dean towards Gopal is actually laudable. Very few universities in India can boast of a one on one relationship with their students.

But the ultimate crunch and crushing of the ultimate destination is the lack of warmth and family support. The society in US shows no  sustained marriages or relationships. At the end of it all instead of milking the bountiful country, Gopal decides to come back to his country, his loving family, his “oil” business rather than stick on in an emotionless land.

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