A half-English, half-Tibetan author penned down a book set in Sri Lanka, narrated by an English protagonist, and which I, an Indian reader, loved reading. It won’t be wrong to state that Chhimi Tenduf-La has penned down a global novel.
Written from the point-of-view of Eddie Trusted, an English school teacher who moves to Colombo and falls in love with a native girl, ‘The Amazing Racist’ explores in intricate details the many idiosyncrasies of South Asian countries: our pride of our rich, past heritage; the anger we still feel towards our erstwhile colonizers, the poverty, our culture, our work values that stress on achievement and financial success, the potholed roads, the insufferable heat, the corrupt bureaucracy and finally our hot curries. The book explores all this and more in a poignant and witty package.
The story is one which has been told a numerous times in many Bollywood movies: boy meets rich girl at a party. They fall in love and wish to get married. They visit the girl’s father to seek his blessings but he balks at the idea of having his daughter marry (in this case) “a white guy”. Like all South Asian parents, Mr. Thilak Rupasinghe, wants his daughter to marry a man…
“…of the same race, religion, caste, literacy, social club, library, the same town, the same street, the same house. Someone with the right horoscope, the right job, salary, house, car…and skin tone”.
A white teacher from England just doesn’t fit the bill.
However my favourite part of the novel is the second half; after Menaka and Eddie’s marriage and the birth of their daughter, Kiki. Eddie and Thilak have to set aside their differences to look after Kiki, as her mother Menaka immerses herself in war reconciliation efforts that leave her with no time for her family. What slowly fosters through brilliant narration and witty anecdotes, is a bond stronger than blood.
The Amazing Racist is an amazing book!
It beautifully describes the changing South Asian social fabric, and tackles many contemporary issues like divorce, inheritance, extramarital love and stereotypes like that of the house husband and the career-driven mother.
The book will make you laugh and cry at the same time. Through his words Chhimi Tenduf-La will draw you into the world he has created: a world of white suddhas, lush paddy fields, extravagant fundraisers, hypocritical mothers, forbidden romance and an orthodox father-in-law with a sharp tongue and a golden heart. You will fall in love with the well-nuanced characters. The author describes them with such vivid details that you, as the reader, start feeling like you know them as intimately as a close friend: their fears, their ambitions, their triumphs and their weaknesses, all are laid out in black and white. The place and character descriptions are vivid, without being tedious.
The only fault I could find with the book was its depiction of Menaka as a negligent and selfish mother only because she prioritizes her career over her family. I find it wrong to pigeonhole women like that.
To conclude it is definitely one of the better books that I have read in quite a while now. A fantastic debut by Chimmi Tenduf-La. I can’t wait to see what further literary masterpieces come my way from his pen.
My rating for this book is very high. I simply loved it. I loved the witty descriptions of a tropical country that closely resembles my own. I loved Thilak Rupasinghe’s sarcastic comments and blustering arrogance. I loved Eddie, Caroline, Kiki and even Menaka.
And most of all I loved the simple narration of everyday life of simple, everyday people that culminates into a piece of literary brilliance.