It cuts across cast, class, gender, race, nation; it has a magnetic pull that manifests in multifarious avatars; it points towards a destination that promises opportunity, prosperity, success, upward mobility…‘The American Dream’.
Goaded by it, many Indians have reached The Unites States of America and made a mark, good enough for the coming generations to emulate. However, not everyone is in a state of bliss, especially the disadvantaged sections of society; something that has been amiably captured by Tanushree Ghosh in her collection of short stories, From An-Other Land.
Immigration, the word as complex in form as in essence, also means a big bag of challenges awaiting those who seek their dreams on foreign shores. Missing the ‘sweet chaos, incessant chatter, daily woes shared in animated conversations’, which the homeland provides, is not easy; it’s not only about immigrating, but settling in an alien society and understanding sensibilities nurtured on a different soil. Choosing allies, ‘the ones adhering to values’, is a tough call.
Post the 2016 elections in America, immigration laws have become stricter and the author keeps that in the backdrop of the stories. She carefully suggests the way though: ‘Mindfulness is very important… it’s the key to being where you want to be emotionally’.
While some immigrants excel on the back of academic excellence, there are many that just about make it and struggle to hold on to their moorings. Like Meera, a character in one of the stories, who marries her brother-in-law for a ‘green card’; what’s surprising is that it is not for her alone, but her husband as well! She indulges in all Kagaaz Ka Khel to actualise her dream.
In the opening chapter, the author brings all the characters together as they pursue their America dream; quite an ingenious ploy indeed, which holds all stories together.
Another theme explored is that of loneliness, a killing emotion in a place where life is a challenge at each step and identity at stake each day. Yet in one of the stories, the author says, ‘there was a connection, a type of togetherness in the loneliness here’. Hope pervades, despite the struggle.
Tanushree’s writing flows and is easy on the senses, which makes the reading pleasurable; it is devoid of unnecessary jargon and verbose commentary. Intelligent comments are sprinkled all over; some of them really impressive; ‘life is mostly grey, but somehow we tire ourselves trying to paint it black or white’ or ‘time is known to be forgiving and forgetful, but the human mind is intricate and tortuous’.
Emotions and situations are understood well, expressed even better. There is a smart play of words in the title itself, where a hyphen affords an intelligent tweak to the inherent meaning.
‘There is nothing wrong in wanting a better life’… the author writes in one of the stories. True; something that will keep ‘The American Dream’ alive.