Thursday, March 6, 2008

Londonstani by Gautam Malkani

“Londonstani” is a powerful and fascinating novel about 4 young men who are struggling with growing up, fitting in, traditions of the desi (Asian) cultures, parents and “complicated family-related shit”. Hardjit, the Sikh; Ravi, “a sheep following the herd”; Amit, whose brother is about to marry; and Jas, the narrator, become involved in a cell phone scam and meet nefarious individuals that can only mean trouble.

Written in a mixture of text speak, British and teenage slang, Punjabi, and “gangsta rap” (as well as regular English), the story was a little hard to follow at first. As I read further, I got used to the writing and the story really came through. After a few chapters, I didn’t want to put the book down. The writing slowed down my reading quite a bit, but it was so worth the effort. It’s definitely a worthwhile read.

I loved this book. I had some reservations at the beginning, but it didn’t take long for those to evaporate. Despite some of the distressing events that happen in the book, the story is funny and entertaining. It’s also touching, disturbing and educational. I learned a lot about the different cultures, including dowries and traditions, as well as a little about cell phones and the criminal environment in which these boys have found themselves.

My favourite character was Jas, the narrator of the story. We get to see this the gang and the different cultures through his eyes. Because he was awkward, he didn’t quite fit in with the other members, even though he desperately wanted to. He was constantly tormented by the others, yet stuck around and took it all for the sake of fitting in. I also loved reading about Amit and Arun’s mother. In her eyes, her family wasn’t receiving the respect it should from Arun’s fiancée and her family. With all due respect to the culture and traditions of it, I thought some of her complaints were a bit neurotic. However, I can relate because my sisters and I often conflict about our old Christmas family traditions. I’m the one that refuses to let them go.

The ending, I think, was the biggest surprise of the book and it’s not to be missed. While some elements of the story remain “unsolved”, the ending is pure delight. I’m still shaking my head with amusement as to how the author brilliantly pulled it off. Well done.

Highly recommended.

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