No Other World

India Today - - LEISURE - By Rahul Mehta —Shougat Das­gupta

Some­where be­tween 70 and 80 per cent of In­dian Amer­i­cans hold at least an un­der­grad­u­ate de­gree. Com­pris­ing doc­tors, soft­ware de­vel­op­ers, Wall Street an­a­lysts and the like, they are also Amer­ica’s rich­est eth­nic group, boast­ing a me­dian house­hold in­come of over $100,000, which is twice the na­tional me­dian.

Cor­re­spond­ingly, In­dian Amer­i­can fic­tion—Jhumpa Lahiri be­ing the sig­nal ex­am­ple— re­flects the ur­bane, largely up­per mid­dle class ethos of the com­mu­nity. Rahul Mehta is dis­tin­guished not just by his West Vir­ginia up­bring­ing but by his ho­mo­sex­u­al­ity. Quar­an­tine, a col­lec­tion of plan­gent al­beit hope­ful short sto­ries, was pub­lished in 2010. Since then, he has taught in a small univer­sity town in up­state New York, far from the met­ro­pol­i­tan ar­eas where most In­dian Amer­i­cans live. His first novel, No Other

World, is out at the end of this month. It opens with Ki­ran Shah, “twelve, al­most thir­teen” gaz­ing into a farm­house in ru­ral New York, or rather, at the fa­ther of a school­mate whose house it is. The novel stretches from mid-1980s Amer­ica to In­dia a decade later, a fam­ily saga that is at once trans­gres­sive and con­ven­tional, that plumbs emo­tional depths while in other parts barely skirt­ing the sur­face. It is un­even but com­pelling, shed­ding light on lit­tle con­sid­ered as­pects of the In­dian Amer­i­can ex­pe­ri­ence.

illustration by ANIR­BAN GHOSH

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