Of Bonds And Bondings
Sanju Thomas
No one can pronounce my name by Rakesh Satyal Picador, 2018, 400 pp., 884
January 2018, volume 42, No 1

Rakesh Satyal’s No One Can Pronounce My Name is a positivetale of transition and discovery which the negation in the title does not really disclose. When one starts reading, one expects another anxiety-ridden tale of culture conflict and identity issues of Indian immigrants. Satyal’s book is all these but significantly much more. The novel set in Cleveland, Ohio is a complex weave of stories of disparate individuals caught at a time when they are struggling to make meaning of their existence. Ranjana, a middle-aged receptionist at a doctor’s clinic and an aspiring writer, suspects her husband of having an affair with a white woman. As such there seems not much left in the relationship. Her husband, Mohan, seems to be content with his chemistry lessons in college and tennis sessions in the evenings. Their marriage has gone through the predictable phases of honeymoon, child rearing and the drudgery of parenthood. Now that their son Prashant is at Princeton, despite the usual social gatherings and temple visits Ranjana’s life is steeped in ennui. Her only real relief in life seems to be her pursuit of romantic supernatural stories.

Ranjana’s character is etched with a lot of interest by the author. She holds in her a child-like openness to wonderment. She is intrigued by the board Paradise Island and goes in search of what it means, the same way she befriends Achyut, a bartender in a gay bar. She seems to be one who exudes a kind of non-normalcy which tends to attract people like Achyut, Teddy and later Harit to her. Ranjana is not troubled overtly about the nature of her relationship with Achyut or even Harit. In fact there is a humaneness innate in her that makes her recognize instinctively Harit’s need to reach out to her.

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