Author: Jhumpa Lahiri
I had resigned myself to spend long hours at the San Francisco International airport. I was tired after a long and hectic day and was hoping to catch up with some good sleep on my flight. The announcement that my flight would get delayed by a good three and a half hours made me resume my battle against boredom half-heartedly. I was browsing through news-stands for some beam of interest to save myself from falling into usual torpor of such situations when I came across this one. I have not really followed Lahiri's work in any depth though she is frequently credited with churning out bestsellers.
It is a collection of short stories centered around NRIs, mainly people of West Bengal in India, and their experiences on the U.S. continent (Lahiri is from Bengal herself and currently lives in Brooklyn , NY). It makes for a tolerable read. I quite liked the first story and it remained my favorite of the collection even after finishing the book. The author is definitely adept at capturing emotional dilemmas and intricacies of human mind and heart. The last three stories which form the second part of the book are also quite moving. They are independent accounts of experiences of two characters - Hema and Kaushik. Eventually the reader discovers deep connections in their stories as their paths cross unexpectedly.
I will recommend this book for a one-time read. But like many others in its league, it brought me yet again to this unanswered question - do the stories that aim to touch our heart necessarily need to be sad ... ? Most of them failed to do so but I still wasn't able to have a sound sleep on my flight.