The Inscrutable Americans
A few years ago, when an ex-colleague told me he was resigning to pursue his higher education in LA, I told him to keep a journal of his time there and to buy a copy of ‘the Inscrutable Americans’ by Anurag Mathur. The novel tells the lighthearted tale of a young Indian’s misadventures in the good ol’ US of A.
Gopal, the protagonist of the novel, goes to America in pursuit of higher education. He has many illusions and prejudices about the country which gradually diminish as he is further initiated into American society by a fellow college student named Randy. It is Randy who shows Gopal the ropes and finds it his mission to get Gopal “laid” during the protagonist’s stay in the country. Just as Gopal has some biased images of America in his mind, Randy too has some preconceived notions about India which our protagonist tries to change throughout the course of the story.
Our protagonist finds America to be quite different from the homeland in terms of education, driving, social etiquette and women especially. He is both amazed and bewildered by the customs and traditions. He meets a variety of people who give him a strong impression of the country. There are many memorable characters in the novel including Randy, Gloria, Anne, Andy (Anand), Peacock and Tom. Of these, the final two can be considered the most influential. They show Gopal two different sides of America which foreigners rarely see: the angry White America and the poor struggling Black America. It is through these two that the protagonist gets a clearer picture than compared to Randy’s materialistic description of the country.
By the end of the story, Gopal leaves America changed and in hopes that his tenure in the country has provided the people he has interacted with a new perspective of India and Indians in general.
The novel is primarily written in third person with the exception of a couple of interludes where Gopal’s letters to his brother make an appearance. These delightful breaks describe the protagonist’s experiences from his point of view. Overall, the story is a humorous take on a maiden visit to the U.S.A. The author’s witty dialogues make the reader laugh out loud and his descriptions of Gopal’s embarrassing moments make the reader truly empathize with the gullible lad.
Some noteworthy observations and dialogues by Gopal to leave you with:
“Maybe , he thought wildly, they are actually a nation full of impotents and that is why they are having so many sexy advertisements.”
“Most surprising thing about America is it is full of Americans. Everywhere Americans, Americans, big and white, it is a little frightening.”
“You are not believing, but I am calling respected professors by first name. One is saying to me, my name is Sam, not sir Sam. The British are not knighting me yet. Good joke I think… Brother, are you imagining if I am going to Great Principal of Jajau College and calling him by first name? I think he is dying of heart attack.”
“It’s a very small town, brother. No dates, nothing, no change. One boy quietly went on date with girl but their parents made them marry afterwards.”