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The eternal conflicts within NRIs of InfoTech world is depicted via the Book cover. It shows a sharp contrast between USA’s stark, sterile grey and India’s vivid bright colors.

Front-Cover_9789385523212

However, unlike the cover, Jay the protagonist narrates every American experience as brighter, prettier, richer and better than everything Indian.

As a result, his climactic yearning for Indian soil seems mildly contrived, since no specific event acts as catalyst, no tender relation (family, romance or friend) acts as a vital tug pulling him home and no warm memory harps upon his patriotism. He returns without any concrete blueprint except for a vague notion of social work.

{Author’s reply to above comment – Jay doesn’t need a concrete plan to go back to his motherland. The desire to be there for the country & parents, as directed by conscience in itself is a strong reason. He returned to India with more hopes than plans. The only plan was to tweak his plans as he surged forward.}

The epilogue explains the book title as a guy who plunges into life’s turbulence instead of being a cynical spectator. In the prologue Jay ‘Red’  proclaims an obsession with the color red – probably  symbolic of his father’s socialist viewpoint. The aforementioned red color, however, remains largely limited to red lipstick, red skirts and red bras under white shirts in his story.

{Author’s reply to above comment – Red is conspicuously not called out towards the end of the novel because 1. The transformation speaks for itself 2. “In hindsight, father’s imprint may have been a big motivation to return to India, to discover who I was, where I belonged and what I was meant for in my short life in this big world. ” The color red, of course, was also used for trivial things to show that Jay still has the remnants of his childhood liking for the color.}

Storyline: Jay enrolls into a marketing programme in US (Kalyan could not believe anyone would feed USA with Indian rupees instead of milking US dollars). Disappointed by the mediocre Masters programme and weighed down by the absence of fee waivers, he switches to IT for lucrative job prospects. Finally after nailing a Seattle job, he decides to head home for good.

To give due credit, Jay does valiantly persevere through a dismal economic recession in US. He returns to India only after validating his ability. He doesn’t pursue a green card but stays on merely to clear existing debts.  His return is thus a personal choice, rather than being kicked out as a failure.

Has the author planned a sequel on Jay’s phase-2 India stay? It would be worthwhile to know if Jay’s plans fructify or frustrate.

Narrative style & language: The author shows a flair for fluent narration and humorous banter. An occasional my success lied in instead of ‘my success lay in’ does creep past the editing table.

Jay displays dollops of wit and a rare honesty to put himself under the microscope with statements like – ‘I have unambiguous double standards. I’m not comfortable with skin show from girls I know but enjoy a skin show from girls I don’t know.’ and ‘Virginity in India is more out of deprivation than dedication.’

Predictably, Jay loses his virginity to an American lass. On the other hand, a relationship is reserved for Siri, an Indian disgusted by India and divorced from an apathetic Indian. Thankfully, financially independent Siri acts as unofficial InfoTech counselor for Jay and shares an equation that is no inhibitions, no pretense, no nonsense.

Readers from IT world in USA would experience déjà vu with multiple nods to Panera, Starbucks and Barnes & Noble as well as zero moral policing, convenient dating system with its inbuilt exit strategy,  structured traffic system, lap dances and flexible career options. Indian readers would experience déjà vu with references to rigid cultural customs, the relief of an open air piss, unruly queues, and anxious Indian parents.

Bharath Krishna, the author is a multi-tasker with degrees in agriculture, IT, finance and management under his belt. Much of Jay seems autobiographical, in that sense. The author makes a confident and promising debut in the literary world with this pleasant read.

Title: Guy on the sidewalk

Cinnamon Teal Publishing

Price: Rs 399/-

Pages: 315

P.S– I received a free book copy from the author for this review.

Sentences in italics are quoted from the book.

Link: http://bharathkrishna.org/

P.S: Being an author myself, I understand that many a reviewer may miss, misread or misinterpret the author’s original intentions. Hence I have included a Q&A between the author and myself. I hope such continued author-reviewer interactions become genteel dueling arenas to air their individual viewpoints.

Here’s wishing the author – All the very best!

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