‘Desperation is as apparent as delight, and arguments and abuses can be heard aplenty as they stand, sweating and fretting, nervous and impatient, on their way to becoming Americans.’ Tanushree Ghosh’s, From An-Other Land, a collection of short stories, sets the tone of the book in the first chapter- ‘The Line’
US based writer, and a social activist, Ghosh paints an evocative tale of everyday immigrant life– their trials, travails and jubilations- in America. The author’s assertion, ‘We need to reach the realisation as a race that we have much bigger issues to deal with than borders’ unequivocally summarises the message, if you’re looking for one, that is.
Written primarily from a female gaze, the book is a breeze, but not a light read. It is as much a, sometimes-heart rending, uplifting and moving vignettes of ‘NRI life- holding a dual passport’, as it is a sketch of the emotional upheavals that only a woman faced with the freedom and uncertainty of a foreign land may feel.
Cutting across nationalities, religion and economic status of her characters- in a little over 200 pages, Ghosh paints a pragmatic, discerning fictionalsied pen picture of real characters. Could well be me or you- given that most stories are inspired by true lives.
From a home maker, to a buxom village belle, married off to her devar in the quest for seeking a valid visa, to a well heeled ‘South Asian family’, caught in the conundrum of moving back to the roots, to techies, to cab drivers and housekeepers- her book abounds in a menagerie of disparate characters.
Not the one to skirt aspects as, racism, recession, street crime and a hunt for identity in an alien land- Ghosh has subtly tied these in her narrative. All the 15 stories, reflect an intricate warp and weft of homeland’s tug at the heart and the convenience of comfort of an, ‘an-other’ land. A nostalgia and a reverie, a memory and a moment, all enlivened in the present.
The title of the stories offers a peek into the range of the experiences the author has observed and shares with the reader- ‘Tarun and Michelle’, ‘The Chinese lady and Sree’, to name a few- a microcosm of multi-cultural contexts’.
Not through the rose tinted glasses does she view the world of the immigrant, nor does she exaggerate their ‘conditions’. Her protagonists are real, and as reality goes, some are flawed too. The setting in the land of dreams and the heroes and heroines, moulded by the homeland, sometimes clash and at others are set free.
A topographically independent book on human interest stories can appeal to readers across time zones. Relayed in a simple, not simplistic manner, the author’s strength lies in her nuggets of insight and studied observation of multiple contexts of immigrant life.
Be it as an engaging read on human motivations, quest for completion and happiness- irrespective of the land one is in, these are worthy goals to aspire for and read about. What do you think?