By Anurag Mathur 1991
I was in India for a weekend recently on a recruiting thing for work. I got wildly ill, but had some fun before that. Part of the fun was visiting a bookshop in Delhi, and gloating over the low prices. There were so many fiction titles by Indian writers of whom I had never heard, that I asked one of the women in the shop for advice. What was the funniest novel? She picked out The Inscrutable Americans for me. Several interviewees later noticed me reading the book, and smiled.
Gopal Kumar is a country boy from a family that has made hair-oil for something like millennia. He has a school year abroad in Ohio or somewhere. It is mostly about Gopal trying to get laid, with the help of his new friend Randy. Gopal reflects that if the Eskimo have lots of words for snow, and Indians for various relatives, then Americans have as many for sex, and this probably indicates something about the society. Gopal tries to bargain in malls (successfully!), gets drunk, eats beef, sees strippers, and so on. Along the way there are a few interesting observations about America, such as the strange sound of Americans thumping around their wooden houses. I enjoyed it, but I think belly laughs are reserved for those who can relate more closely to the experience.
Gopal talking to a fundamentalist:
"Yes, yes. Everywhere people are same. I am having uncle who is so proud of India and culture that he is thinking all others are inferior."
"India has culture?" Tom was downright sceptical.
"Going back 4,000 years back. Many palaces, tombs, art and dances."
"How come no one ever hears of it? No offence, but let's face it, who's heard of India?"
"Well, Christopher Columbus is hearing. What you think he is looking for when he is discovering America?"
The sequel to the low book prices was that this one turned out to be missing a half dozen or so pages. And one of the books in my bag was magically replaced by the shop's ledger, which I left at the front desk of my hotel. I hope they got it back.