Monday, July 15, 2013

Reader's Diary #1039- Damodar Mauzo, translated by Xavier Cota: The Red Nissan


Just a mention of the word, and a certain image forms before our eyes of a stereotypical Kuwait Goan.
Well, no. Perhaps, given the mention of a Nissan in the title, I would have envisioned such a vehicle at the mention of Kuwaitkar, as in Kuwait Car, but I'm not a car buff either and so I envisioned nothing. Certainly not a "stereotypical Kuwait Goan." Can't say I'd even heard of a Goan before, stereotypical or otherwise.

Sometimes Short Story Monday can be educational. A Goan, it turns out, is someone from the Indian state of Goa. A Kuwait Goan then is simply someone from Goa who is now living in Kuwait. What the stereotypes of such people would be I haven't the foggiest, but while the author seems to assume at least some familiarity with the Goans, he does offer enough information to form a basic level introduction.

"The Red Nissan" focuses primarily on the class system of Goan expats in Kuwait. Some have taken on low-paying, demanding labour, others have taken on white collar jobs with better pay and hours, and a select few have found themselves in the circle of the super rich. The red Nissan, which belongs to the daughter of one of these super rich couples, represents the wealth and audaciousness of this class.

The narrator of "The Red Nissan" is a traveling Goan come to Kuwait on business. He is to stay with his old friend Maria who has made a life with her family in Kuwait, a life in super luxury which comes as somewhat of a shock to the narrator.

For all intents and purposes, "The Red Nissan" is Maria's story. Maria, not the most likable of characters, has come to passionately embrace her opulent lifestyle. And while the 1%, as they'd be called in our society, certainly have certain privileges not afforded to the rest of us, Maria might be over-estimating hers. It is when certain cultural differences threaten to ostracize Maria from a group she is so proud to belong that her facade begins to crack.

"The Red Nissan" is a compelling, sometimes frustrating, character study with a dose of drama to boot.

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