Belying the stereotype of the enterprising Gujarati businessman, Raghu Mehta stumbles from one unsuccessful venture to another—and losing his self-esteem and sense of worth in the process. The lack of money has left his family life in shambles, his relationship with his beautiful wife strained, and his children rebelling. Joshi has managed to convey the despair of penny pinching in a humorous way, such that we can sense the blues that frequently grip Raghu and also appreciate the farcicality of his business decisions.
Raghu’s trip to China, which was both an adventure and an eye-opener for him, sets in motion innumerable twists and turns in the narrative, some of which I was pleasantly surprised to find. Joshi touches upon tiger poaching and male sexual dysfunction, and not once do any of her characters deliver a boring sermon. Instead, she weaves these themes naturally into conversations, even imparting a moral lesson in the process.
I’m the sort of person who prefers to read the novel instead of watching the movie adaptation, but “Made in China” is so eccentric, unconventional, and downright comical that I do want to see how the movie pans out. I especially appreciated the subtle humor—both in the situations and the dialog—which may not be easy to replicate on screen.
Without sounding contrived or forced, Joshi has realistically fleshed out the personalities of the characters—Raghu’s desi vibe, Dev’s slightly shady and flashy behavior, Rukmini’s brave façade during bad times, and Dr. Vardhi’s solid, grounding presence. Even the peripheral characters were dealt with adequately enough for me to empathize and associate with them.
The flip in the dynamics between Raghu and Dev was satisfying to watch, although perhaps it was a bit petty. But that is how most people behave in real life, and Joshi has simply held up a mirror to ourselves. I loved how relatable the whole novel is: the jealousy, snarkiness, and pettiness that goes on in our lives is aptly described.
This is a story about regular people getting on with their ordinary lives, struggling to enrich themselves, and creating something beautiful and meaningful without compromising on one’s principles and values. The book has enough drama and insights on human connection to make it appealing to a wide audience.
I found the story funny, off-beat, even a bit bizarre–and I recommend it to everyone who wants to read something fresh and perceptive.
(I was offered a copy of the book by the author in exchange for an honest review.)