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December 26, 2010

Page: 14/42

Home > 2010 Issues > December 26, 2010


A passage to America

By Manju Gupta

Looking for America, Avirook Sen, HarperCollins Publishers, Pp 281(PB), Rs 299.00

WRITTEN by a journalist-cum-writer, this book is a travelogue describing his journey across America during the period of Obama’s election, the arrival of the recession and the change it is yet to bring for America and the world. As he travels to places both well known and obscure, he finds stories at every stop.

The author’s first stop is downtown Chicago where he meets an average man called Joe who feels the ‘hand of history’ on his shoulder even as he goes about shaping it with his vote.

He then moves on to reach Gary, Indiana, which has the highest percentage (85) of African Americans and is being painted up to hold the Miss America 2001 pageant. He sees, "men and women looking on to the street with curious perspective, painted salesmen in stores that hadn’t sold a thing in decades - their necks twisted at unlikely angles, their faces a litany of deformities." This is Michael Jackson’s hometown from which he had moved away though "Gary wasn’t going to let go so easily" of him. The people wanted to build a museum and an entertainment centre in his name.

The next stop is Dayton, Tennessee where the author discovers how the thread of religion is woven into the patchwork quilt of America. "In one sense, it held it together, linking it with knits and knots of core values that made this country great."

His next stop is Kentucky, where at the KFC he is served an awful meal through no fault of the staff - "the shrivelled, depressed chickens that would have probably committed suicide had KFC not offered the more humane mass slaughter option."

At Knoxville, Tennessee, he hears of the "attack of the radioactive frogs". As the lab had been covered with wire netting waste, the frog population had an explosion in number and on finding it too crowded in the pond, they had to jump out and hit the road. Some perished under the wheels of moving vehicles, while the progeny of the survivors "glowed in the dark."

The author visits California, Salt Lake City, Denver, Dinosaur in Colorado. From here he goes to Los Angeles, Ohio state, Wisconsin, Louisiana, Michigan, North Dakota, Washington and Idaho and meets convicts who state their convictions. He visits the ghettos and concludes, "From the racism point of view, in the two days I spent there, the town (Idaho) was a total washout."

The book is full of tongue-in-the-cheek remarks which make this travelogue enjoyable to read.

(HarperCollins Publishers, A-53, Sector 57, Noida, UP-201301;

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