Traditional southern Indian society clashes with fast-changing Western ways, in a debut collection of eight elegant, nicely developed stories.
Sankaran has her finger on the economic pulse that motivates many of these striving young characters, all from the provincial city of Bangalore, to embrace modern technological changes at the peril of rupturing family and culture. In “Bombay This,” the fine opener, a 30ish “software lad” tentatively invites his mother to begin matchmaking for him; as a member of the ruling class buttressing its traditional privileges with new technocratic trimmings, Ramu is heeding “the true Call of the Patriarchy.” He and his mother separately land on the same prospect, Bombay-bred snob Ashwini, whose ultramodern ways prove both attractive and ruinous. In “Alphabet Soup,” a young Indian woman who has grown up in America and attended elitist East Coast schools decides it’s time to fulfill “multicultural obligations” and head back to India, where she can proudly be “Brown in a Brown country.” She defies her father, who made the choice to come to America in the first place, but while she is in Bangalore she recognizes the “maddening” complexities that enter into the choice to leave or stay. “The Red Carpet” takes readers into two starkly different castes. Poor, uneducated Rangappa has to support his parents, sister, wife and baby daughter on a pittance of a salary as a driver, while his glamorous employer lives in idle richness. Scandalously modern in dress and habits, the attractive Mrs. Choudhary is liberal and kind toward Rangappa and his family, though she renames him Raju on some inexplicable whim. “Apple Pie, One by Two” revisits the chummy software lads, who have attended the best engineering schools in America and are eagerly sought after for jobs. Each one plays out his childhood fantasies of success made in America: “the nabob in the storybook, another foolish Indian abroad.”
Well-polished, smartly relevant fiction.