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A story of non-resident Indians' fascination for India


India, Jan 22, 2009
Santa Singh

Indian by Choice, Amit Dasgupta, Wisdom Tree, pp 93, Rs 395.00 (paperback)

This graphic novel is an attractive presentation of a story about a non-resident Indian, named Mandeep, who has adopted the name Mandy. He is a second-generation Indian born and brought up in Chicago and, like a full-blown American, he is fond of hot dogs, French fries, baseball, blondes and everything that is American.

The story begins with a wedding in the family back home in India. As Mandy’s parents are unable to attend, Mandy is asked to represent the family though he detests the thought of going to India. On the flight, he sits next to an Indian couple whom he describes as “perfect dumbbells”, especially the wife who has gems “sprouting from every finger” and “gold necklaces that had her stooping all the time” and “such colourful taste in clothes that would put a rainbow to shame”. What is more, the drive from the airport to Delhi is the “most depressing thing ever” because “the poverty hits you; the number of people hit you…children and women sleeping alongside dogs and without a covering.”

However as days pass, he finds himself drawn into a world he is familiar with through his relationship with his parents and sister. In India he meets Simrita who takes him to see her university campus. He visits the Taj Mahal and feels India is a country of tombs where the Taj too is one. In a letter to his parents, he writes: “I still hate India.” He even visits Goa and falls in love with the place—“Loved it! Great food; wonderful ambience.” He returns to America but carries with him fond memories of India.

The book deploys three different styles of expressions—graphic illustrations, text through exchange of e-mails with his parents and sister and photographs. It also tries to convey to the non-resident Indians the message that India is more than that meets the eye or that the picture drawn of India by foreigners is not true. Through storytelling, it attempts to provide answers to questions like, ‘Will India continue to be plagued by poverty and hunger? Would corruption and red-tapism remain deeply entrenched to stymie good governance? Would India’s secular ethos be tested time and again?’

The author very aptly quotes a foreign diplomat who had said on departing from India that when you land in India, you are horrified and frustrated to see the India which they could have never pictured and when you leave India, you realise that “India has entered your soul and your heart” - the common masses have touched your heart with their warmth and hospitality; the sights and smells have become a part of your thinking and being; and the spirit of India has engulfed you in its embrace without asking for anything in return.

(Wisdom Tree, 4779/23 Ansari Road, Daryaganj, New Delhi-110 002.)