An Indian In New York

Nine short stories that won a Pulitzer. 'Nuff said!

This book, dedicated to her sister and parents, is what made 33-year-old Lahiri win the Pulitzer Prize earlier this year. It is a collection of nine short stories, all concerned with Indians living abroad or in India.

All the yarns are an end in themselves, and each one is embellished with a daub of a description typically Indian. Be it the hue of a bindi, the tint on a sari, the shade of an expression or the dye of an attitude, Lahiri Projects her masterpiece painting in all its vividness, complexity and intricate detail.

Her writing style is superlative. Sometimes subtle and delicate, at other times penetrating, and always simple, she succeeds in getting at the root of that Indian heart settled and living out each day on a continent that is not India.

With a few, quick strokes of her crafty pen she exposes the mindsets and thoughts of an increasing legion of Indians that opt for a life on foreign soil. Entire characters are tapped, and they blossom for her like flowers in the rain.

In a rare menagerie, where each narrative is a collector's item, my favourites are "A Temporary Matter" and "When Mr. Pirzada Came To Dine". Read the book for yourself and you might find two or more completely different ones that lift your spirit.

At the end of the book the reader is invariably forced to reflect. One thought that the book inspires is that one can take a man out of India, but never India out of a man.

This article was first published on 08 May 2000.