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  Books   15 Jun 2024  Book Review | The voice of the Nepali American

Book Review | The voice of the Nepali American

THE ASIAN AGE. | ANKIT RATH
Published : Jun 15, 2024, 12:25 pm IST
Updated : Jun 15, 2024, 12:25 pm IST

Ranjan Adiga, both as a writer and as a Nepali-American, has always been fairly vocal about the contemporary issues Nepalis face

Cover image of Leech and Other Stories
 Cover image of Leech and Other Stories
Ranjan Adiga, both as a writer and as a Nepali-American, has always been fairly vocal about the contemporary issues Nepalis face, especially those that emerge from the social hierarchy they are subject to. His pieces, “Are You an Indian? ‘No, I am a Nepali’” and “I’m not Muslim, but why should it matter if I were?” bring into view the prejudice that he, like many others, has faced both at home and in America. I believe when similar experiences are gathered and fictionalised, they make way for an anthology like Leech and Other Stories to come to life.

This collection of stories, as aptly reads the blurb, “dives into the … lives of contemporary Nepalis struggling to belong in new worlds.” The dreams of progress and upward social mobility push them forward whereas the strings of societal convention and “fate” tie them down. The author skilfully voices some of the most intimate insecurities of these people.

The representation of Nepalis and of the othering that some of them must come to terms with is quite effectively managed in this anthology. A certain homogeneity that permeates the pages is what makes it so. Many of these stories focus on the same or at least similar issues but from varying perspectives.

‘Denver’ follows a young couple who have moved to America hoping for a brighter future but find themselves suspended between worlds; ‘Leech’, the title story, in a similar vein explores the events in the life of a Madhesi migrant in Nepal. We are witness to the disparity between the various kinds of immigrants from across the globe arriving in America in ‘Spicy Kitchen’, with the Nepali scholar harbouring a constant fear of being deported; the dread of having one’s visa revoked is also explored in ‘The Diversity Committee’ but from a professor’s point of view.

‘Student Visa’ lays bare the toils and troubles the average middle-class Nepali student undergoes simply to obtain one. All these stories explore the blemishes of a seemingly golden land replete with opportunities. Stories like ‘Kali’ and ‘High Heels’ are expressions of everyday struggles originating from the innate tendency for discrimination and violence that human society is built on. While most of these stories end on a rather hopeful note, their grim realities never really leave them.

Adiga’s stories often are set in the immediate past, which may as well have been the present when they were penned, and therefore are very much in the moment. The descriptions of lewdness and actions of a sexual nature abundantly scattered throughout are, perhaps, meant to amplify a feeling of “cultural impurity”. However, they sometimes feel uncalled for when not driving the plot. Ranjan Adiga’s Leech and Other Stories is an important book for the times, especially because it unveils a long-hidden demographic group of the world in its entirety.

Leech and Other Stories

By Ranjan Adiga

Penguin

pp. 256; Rs 399

 

Tags: leech and other stories, ranjan adiga, book review 2024