Monday, October 30, 2006

Londonstani by Gautam Malkani

Londonstani by Gautam Malkani,.. is story with intriguing ride to perception and humor in an argot comprised of English, Punjabi urban slang.

The story is told entirely from the viewpoint of Jas, Hounslow district teenage. Jas is a perceptive and intelligent nerd. Yet he has quelched those attributes in a successful effort to join a small gang of "rudeboys," the desi version of gangstas who pride themselves on their style and fashion.His rudeboy group is led by Hardjit(Sikh body builder), Armit(Hindu nationalist) and Ravi(who brags about his sexual exploits, seemingly more imagined than real). The rudeboys themselves are an amalgamation of conflicting cultural notions. Their independence leads them to distance themselves from some of their parents' traditions. This inevitably leads to what Jas calls "complicated family-related shit."But group was very proud of their heritage and their "desiness" and hatred for their Muslim counterparts.

Jas school teacher attempt to rescue him by hook him with Sanjay, a former desi student who studied economics at Cambridge.
Hardjit and Jas help run an illicit cell-phone reselling operation; their schoolmaster's efforts to mainstream and rehabilitate leads well-off Sanjay, who turns out to be even more corrupt. Sanjay introduces to "Bling economics" group which takes Jas in particular under his wing and the boys are soon living large as they move from being menial cogs in the stolen phone trade to relatively significant players.

Then Jas also involves not getting a crush on attractive Muslim girls like Samira, but Jas begins pursuing a relationship with her on the sly and hopes that Hardjit, the alpha dog of his group of friends and a hard-liner about crossing such lines, never finds out.

Better still, the novel concludes with a clever plot twist that upends the notions of identity and race Jas spends the novel struggling with. It's almost enough to make you forget that, despite those strengths, much of the book is a conventional coming-of-age story about a kid aching for the stability of friendship or a date.

Author adeptly combines the threads of each of these elemental struggles into a generally workable whole. Book nicely handles variety of internal, generational, racial, religious, and societal conflicts.

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