Title: Not Really Indian
Author: Subhashini Prasad
Publisher: Notion Press
Genre: Short Stories
First Publication: 2019
Book Summary: Not Really Indian
Shivani returns to the heart of Mumbai after a decade of ruling New York as a banker. But who can she count on when a sudden intruder enters her house?
Seema’s childhood nanny from Jaipur visits her in Singapore: 50-year-old Mamta massi who has watched her grow. What can a new country do to a loyal simpleton?
Twin sisters Ahana and Sahana are oceans apart for the first time in their lives, one in Delhi and the other in London. And both are expecting babies in the same month. What does it take for these inseparable sisters to stay apart?
10 women of Indian origin. No, they are not a sports team. They are women who have a love-hate relationship with their country. Some opportunists, some merely curious, some bystanders and some striking the fine balance between being Indian and not. But none of them can call just India home.
This book is a collection of short stories taking us through the lives of these women who are…Not Really Indian.
Book Review: Not Really Indian
Not Really Indian is ten separate stories which share one overarching theme. All share the theme of Indians who find it easier to hang on their customs than assimilate, creating people proud of their culture yet longing for their old country. This did not seem all too different to me than immigrants from other ethnicities and Author Subhashini Prasad does a superb job of making the Indian experience stand alone.
Author masterfully gave purpose to her protagonists even if in some cases we only get to know them for fifteen short pages. As each story begins in a negative light and ends positively, the reader looks forward to each successive story in the collection.
Author Subhashini, born in India, raised in Indonesia and educated in USA, appears to create her characters from her memories and experiences in foreign countries. Whether it was an Indian girl living in New York came back to her home country in story ‘The Intruder’ or a Nanny from India visits the girl in Singapore whom she raised in childhood in story ‘Maid in India’, the stories are written in a labor of love. Each story is penned with the details of the color and texture of the women’s saris to the brand of tea that the characters drank. From reading the stories of these immigrants, I felt empathy with their lives.
Writing short stories is not easy. A novel is an easier literary form in a way – it allows you the space for character and plot development and gives you the space to slowly fall in love with it. Short story, on the other hand, is like literary speed dating; it only has so much time to set itself apart and make a somewhat decent expression. In Not Really Indian, Author Subhashini has weaved together stories of sadness yet has her readers leave feeling positive about her characters. Although short in length, each story is powerful from start to finish and has the readers desiring to know more about the characters’ lives. I look forward to reading more of Subhashini’s work.
If I were to describe the stories in Not Really Indian in a single word, it’d be “melancholy”. They are permeated by quiet, subdued, rich, and almost beautiful sadness; sorrow that paradoxically sometimes seems almost uplifting, even cathartic. The stories are slow to unfold, contemplative, intensely lyrical, nostalgic, and quietly moving.
I enjoyed this short story collection Not Really Indian by Subhashini Prasad. I chose to ration it over a few days rather than swallow them all at once, and it was a good experience.