I have read many first books by very popular bloggers. They have mostly managed to disappoint me successfully, be it Sanchos, Dorks, Reluctant Detectives or Mighty Bongs. I have donated the signed copies of these books to the unsuspecting. Reading some of these books also made me very angry, since I had bought them after reading, as it turns out, untruthful reviews full of undeserving praise. So, as a rule, I have learnt to keep away from books from blogger-writers. Until Amreekandesi wrote a book.
Amreekandesi or AD, as I call him, was one of the best bloggers I know. Long before people knew him in his popular, humorous avatar on Twitter, he was writer of succinct, satirical, hard-hitting posts and he didn’t shy of writing on sensitive, political subjects. So, I was reluctant to change that impression in my mind; I admit I avoided the book at first. And then when I picked up the book, I did so with trepidation and zero expectations, however, I am glad to say I was pleasantly surprised.
Amreekandesi – Masters of America (AMA) is story of Akhil and Jassi, two Punju lads, who move to America in 2004 with vastly different goals in mind. Akhil wants to learn and come back to India, while Jassi would do anything to profess a gora identity. The story of these two FOBs (Fresh off-boats) can be described, to borrow from the cliché , as ‘coming-of-age’. Akhil who has lived sheltered life in India (like most of us) goes to US and finds his own mojo as will Jassi. It is also a ‘boy meets girl’ story that you better find out yourself.
The reason books works for me is it is so unpretentious in its story-telling. There are no desperate attempts at slapstick (read cheesy) humor, no fake rabble-rousing. Yet book did engage me and made me laugh at times. It also helped that AMA was a far cry from the representative book my mind had for this sort of setting was the cheesy The Inscrutable Americans. Though with Jassi, AD does pay homage to The Inscrutable Americans but AMA remains a warm and realistic book.
Though I have never lived in US, I could relate to lot of things just from my experiences from the vacation in Europe. For example, that habit of converting everything you buy in Euro to INR and gut-wrenching it causes each time. (Then when you return you still re-convert INR prices to Euro just to compare). That thing about not jumping the queues, waiting your turn patiently at counters. When car drivers stop and impatiently gesture to a confused you (because in our country, you always wait for the cars to pass first) to cross the road. Some of things just reminded me of my hostel experience, that necessity to learn to take care of yourself, bond with people you share your abode with, the need to mingle around.
All in all, AMA is very relate-able, warm and honest book. It is witty and tells a story simply with heart. I loved the Bong connection of the book, and was bemusedly reminded of Bong family portrayed in Vicky Donor. The book could definitely do better with editing. And for all those who have been in situations where they found themselves when forced to live away from family, all those who have been abroad may know a lot already about it, yet it wouldn’t hurt to read one more story of love and mojo. You can download the first chapter of the book for free here.
Thanks AD for the review copy of your first book (sign it for me later please), your emphasis on honesty and keeping faith in friendship.