Some years ago, during my post grad years, I stayed as a ‘paying guest’ with a Pali village family. Living with aunty Sandra was an interesting experience, especially her English dialect and turn of phrase. So reading this book ‘Bandra bloodline’ by Godfrey Joseph Pereira was a delightful nostalgia trip.
Set in Bandra, Mumbai in a time before cellphones and PCs,(the protagonist uses a type-writer to write a CV and sends it via post), David is a journalist who gets a job in America and moves abroad for a lucrative future. Wait, that’s oversimplifying it. David is weary of his middle class existence, his everyday struggles and the banality of his life in the ‘village’ he’s lived in all his life. He aspires to make something of himself, to mark himself better than a Pali villager. When an opportunity presents itself in the form of a job in the US, he swiftly gives up his job, cuts loose the apron strings and covets the hallowed green card.
Unfortunately, he is in for a rude shock and a harrowing experience. The promised job is nothing short of a nightmare, and he is nothing more than a ‘legal slave‘, held to ransom by bosses who threaten to turn him into an ‘illegal alien’ in the US. But it’s either that or return home to Pali village with his tail between his legs, and no NRI status (IMHO, the book doesn’t clarify why he didn’t just return. After all, his parents would have been ecstatic to have their only son back; and he was qualified and employed to begin with, so he could find another job again without great difficulty).
Shocked at the horrible treatment meted out to Indians by fellow Indians; lonely, ill and broke in a foreign land, David’s spirit gets crushed and he almost gives up on himself. Does he manage to find kindness, friendship and hope? Where does he finally build a future and is it happy? The rest of the book answers these questions.
The book depicts Pali village’s idyllic existence colourfully, replete with nosy neigbours who gossip (but also take care of each other in tough times), villagers with interesting nicknames and equally interesting back-stories for those sobriquets, their lifelong relationship with the bottle (and bottle masala), men with ‘gourmint jobs’ and of course, their special flavour of East Indian English. In fact, there’s also a precious bit of trivia about how ‘East Indians’ got their name (hint: It has something do with the Portuguese, the British and the East India Company).
I’ll recommend this book to you for 2 reasons:
- Get introduced to the East Indian way of life
- Read about the plight of countless Indians abroad who are duped, trapped and abused by fellow citizens