No Other World
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