Title: A Life of Adventure and Delight
Author: Akhil Sharma
Not having encountered the works of Akhil Sharma before I approached this book with intellectual legislation. That was a foolish approach, however, having read his bio data on the back page, I realized that he was a writer of enormous talent who had already won prizes for his earlier books, and had even been published in New Yorker and Atlantic Monthly. He also touches at the prestigious Rutgers University in the U.S. So I knew I was going to read something good.
I was not disappointed in the eight stories included in the book, some longer than others, but all making compelling reading. Each has simplicity and even brevity that is admirable in its sensitivity and its colossal range of contemporary India’s various lifestyles.
The author has an admirable control of the English language considering that he was India-born and yet writes in impeccable westerly of chiseled simplicity. It is all very impressive. Akhil Sharma migrated to the US in 1979 and it is natural that his stories have an American flavor; Indians the characters may be but they live in America in their little Indian worlds.
The story called “We didn’t like him” is about Manshu, the storyteller’s “father’s sister’s husband’s sister’s son”. This dark humour has a sense of Indianness. Where but in India does one show respect to a family that takes a daughter away!
This 14-year old Manshu who was universally not liked, became religious as he grew older, wearing sandal paste on his forehead. He eventually became a pandit, and eventually became a guru and then a businessman. How familiarly is Indian that? Sharma certainly has his finger on the pulse!
All these eight stories are recognizably intimate translations in human (and essentially Indian) emotions and the pleasure of reading each story is that each one is so beautifully written in such exquisite simplicity without pretension or arrogance in language. One reads smoothly through a deceptively simple diction, taking in every sentence without the need to look for the dictionary as so often happens in some contemporary books.
It is almost impossible to prefer one story in all the right, they are all so good, each separate from the other, and yet with the same Indian-in-America mood. The traditional family trying to fit in with the America lifestyle and yet bringing their native customs into their newly chosen lives.
These stories are so well and deceptively simply written, no flourishes, no Flamboyance, they leave the reader with the wish that they would go on a little more when each finally ended its dark humor, its energy, its stylish power. Can one praise this book enough?