Sunday, March 29, 2015

Family life - Akhil Sharma

The 2015 Folio award winning novel 'Family life' is the second novel after 'The obedient father' ,written by the Indo-American author Akhil Sharma..The autobiographical memoir,based upon his childhood experiences took nearly nine long years to complete.The story is narrated in the first person,by eight year old boy Ajay..It all starts in Delhi,when the two boys,Ajay(8) and his elder brother,Birju receive their visa for America.

Image from Google
The Mishra family moves to America in the late seventies as America opened doors to immigration policy..The parents with high expectations,Mr.and Mrs. Mishra were very happy when their elder son,Birju got admission in the prestigious Bronx high school of science..Though Birju adopted the new culture in no time,Ajay struggles to fit in the new society..The family's dreams were shattered altogether when Birju(15) met with a major accident in the swimming pool and he remains brain damaged..The story is all about Ajay's childhood fears and the complexities of family life..The book also discussed immigration issues.

For me,the best part about Ajay's character is his passion for reading and his interest in Hemingway..As a child,he was a huge fan of him..He says,though he did not read much of his works he read 'about him' just because he wants to adopt his writing style..

Here is Ajay about Hemingway,

'Having read Hemingway, I knew that I should just push all the exotic things to the side as if they didn’t matter, that this was how one used exoticism—by not bothering to explain.'

'As I read about Hemingway having been to Spain and France, I was amazed. I couldn’t believe that an actual person had gotten to go to Spain and France. What was even more amazing was that this man had done it without being a doctor or an engineer. Till then I had thought that the only way to have a good life was to have one of these two professions. As I sat there reading, I got happier and happier. To have a life where one traveled, where one did what one wanted, seemed like being rich.'

Read the following lines..Here I can relate myself to Ajay for he also feels that sometimes reading is a great escape from hard reality..
Reading these books I had the feeling that I was being transformed. I felt like I was being connected to a world where stories were written and where they were studied. Feeling myself being connected, I had the sense that I was being taken away from my own life and brought into a world that was glamorous, where people did pleasurable things, where people did not worry all the time.

In the following sentences,I agree with Ajay about Hemingway's 'The Old man and the sea',
An essayist wrote that The Old Man and the Sea is full of factual inaccuracies, that it is impossible to carry miles of fishing line on one’s shoulder. I read about Hemingway’s mistakes and felt that what probably matters in a book is its emotional truth and not whether small facts are accurate.

The novel widely discussed about the problems of NRI life,their fears and complexities in the alien country..However the family was in terrible suffering after Birju's accident,they had to hide their tears in the alien society..Unlike in homeland,Ajay constantly feels terrible need to prove his identity in the new world for which he keep telling many lies to his school friends for sympathy..He and his mother Subha hide Mr.Mishra's drinking habbit for the sake of propriety and respect from the society..However,Subha's role appear to be a nagging wife and doting mother,I very much liked the way she handled her circumstances with dignity..She is the one who gave her hundred percent to her family when compared to her husband Mr.Mishra who tried to escapes from the reality with his drinking habbit..Though the narration is very honest and bold from an eight year old boy's point of view, Ajay's thoughts were too mean to be sympathetic towards him..As he remain unwanted after Birju's accident,he alone fights his own fears in the alien country while his parents are no longer ready to help in his sadness as they are too busy handling their own issues while taking care of  Birju,the brain damaged son.Though it was a serious read,also there was an undercurrent of dark humour,which made the narration quite interesting..This work is a pretty good example,that all dollar dreams won't lead to colourful lives.

Akhil Sharma - Image from Google
Few more lines from the book,

I had decided to tell Rita I loved her. This was because from having watched Hindi movies, it seemed that if one was to have a relationship with a girl, one had to be in love.

This surprises me because you always expect people who matter a great deal to you to end up leading glamorous lives.


Ankur Anand said...

Seems Interesting especially with title :)

Barbara Fisher said...

Hello Nagini, I had somehow lost touch with your blog until I stumbled on it again today. This sounds like an interesting read, excellent review as always. Barbara.