Americans In India

The Elephanta Suite, Paul Theroux, 2007

Taj Mahal Hotel and Gateway to India Mumbai

A collection of three short stories explores tourism and global business in contemporary India. The first, appearing first in the New Yorker, follows two wealthy fiftyish Americans, married for 30 years, who vacation at a spa purposely isolated from its surrounding community in a luxurious but totally artificial environment. When they become sexually involved with their masseurs, both native employees are fired. Somewhere along the line, the Americans buy some scarfs made from the hair of endangered antelope. Explores tourism as an isolated and insular world created artificially for the wealthy westerner.

The second story follows a divorced American lawyer, sent to Mumbai to negotiate product outsourcing for American companies. He becomes involved with street prostitutes, falls in love with India and finds excuses to remain. His Indian associate, a Jain from a successful family slowly replaces the American and then delivers him to an ashram where he appears content to remain.

The third story concerns two young American girls out to see India. One meets a rich young Western man and never gets out of Mumbai. The other continues traveling by herself until she meets an aggressive, nasty, fat Indian guy and comes to grieve.

Only the second story retains your interest as the lawyer goes native and we see a reversal of roles. At least each story is short.

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