By Jaya Biswas
Humourist Melvin Durai’s riveting, snazzy debut novel, Bala Takes The Plunge, explores with wit and insight the age old struggle of middle-class Indian kids — to convince and seek their parents’ support — when it comes to choosing a profession or a partner.
Bala Takes The Plunge is about Balasubraniam (aka Bala aka Bill) from Madras (Chennai) whose dream is to make Tamil films with superstar Rajinikanth, but who instead lands up in an engineering college. This earns him his Appa’s approval and the opportunity to export himself to America as Director of Design at FlexIt Inc., coming up with new ways to help Americans shed the extra weight around their middles and in their wallets.
Though in an another world, he is at least some kind of director, he consoles himself. Bala loves America, and America, it seems, loves him even more. He has everything he needs to be happy: a green card, a satellite dish to watch cricket, and a companion to share his home — albeit one with a limited vocabulary. His other wish is to find himself a wife before his Amma finds a conventional fair and ‘unspoilt’ girl for him. So begins Bala’s quest for his better-half, someone worthy enough to inherit his mother’s Corelle crockery.
The author uses sarcasm, tongue-in-cheek play on words weaving a humorous story around this main plot. The book has a lot of unique abbreviations such as HIT which stands for Harishchandra Institute of Technology and MRI which means Marriage Related Investigations and so on. But it’s the mundane, everyday sights and scenes we often take for granted that interest him. Also, it is hilarious to note how specific Indians get when it comes to hunting for a bride or a groom.
Melvin has written hundreds of humour columns and funny blog posts. A native of Tamil Nadu, he grew up in Zambia and spent much of his life in America, which reflects in the manner he impeccably traverses into both the worlds with élan.
There’s a feel-good factor about the book which has an uncanny resemblance to Anurag Mathur’s The Inscrutable Americans in terms of storyline and style of narration. However, this one is livelier.