After having read 5 depressing views on life and history, it was a relief to end with a refreshing and hilarious account of the daily grind of Asian life. Our reading group read a book once on the sad life of India, and it was also written as a parody, and two of the same style makes me wonder if Asian authors prefer to write a happy side to tragic stories instead of dealing with them melodramatically. This doesn't overshadow the reality, though, but makes me feel that sometimes life can be so tragic that the only way to deal with it is to find the funny side of things and laugh. I liked the author's style of anecdotal writing, which makes it easy to digest, put down, and go back whenever I wanted--although the pauses in between reading were never too long because I wanted to finish the book already! :)
This was a surprisingly light read, for a book with lots of substance. I liked the way Desai writes the heavy truth with very light strokes, making the burden somewhat easier to bear. It is mainly a story of being a stranger in another land, as well as in one's own country, within one's own family and friends, even within one's own self--a stranger's need for acceptance by others and by self, and it is never enough. Although the characters were stereotypical, I felt the prose to be the opposite: there were beautiful words to describe all the internal frustrations involved in prejudice and injustice that have been handed down generations, with both the real and the fantasized making the problems worse (like a catch-22). There was an uncanny accuracy in dealing with the idea of living an ordinary self-absorbed existence day by day, in the midst of an outside world of poverty and chaos, and at the same time, while personal struggles work up a storm within, outside life goes on. I initially thought that the ending was too abrupt, but on second thought, in a matter of a few lines, Desai was able to capture the hope of endless possibilities post-tragic events. Simply brilliant.