The “Quarantine: Stories” by Rahul Mehta revolve around artsy, educated leads who are trying to navigate adulthood as young gay Indian-American men. In his convincing debut collection of short fiction stories, Rahul Mehta writes about the lives of out gay men, their betrayals and disappointments. There are stories of the hard-earned personal connections they come to cherish. His characters live on botched relationships, on their romantic, familial, and cultural failures, and on the difficulty of sharing space with another person.
Typically, most of the stories that focus on American-born children and youth are structured around boredom by Indian social and religious traditions. The usual stories about rich kids who are stuffed in pop culture and while having issues connecting with those around them, regardless of their ethnicity. Rahul Mehta while doing this part turned out to be an expert of the first order with brilliant storytelling.
Set in West Virginia, the title story is about a young Indian-American man who takes his boyfriend, Jeremy, home for the first time to meet his parents and Bapuji, his overbearing grandfather. The author is uncomfortable with having to conceal his relationship from Bapuji, and ends up getting confused feelings when Bapuji and Jeremy hit it off. Another grandparent character in the story “Citizen,” Ranjan who is 80-something fails her U.S. citizenship exam despite the lessons from Pradeep, her aimless grandson for weeks. The stories portray how the older generation struggles to adjust to their life in the United States, while the first- or second-generation leads face an identity crisis as well.
In the story “Floating,” Darnell and his boyfriend, Sid, on their trip to India face the agony of homophobia and also face the guilt of privilege after getting scammed. Guilt plays out more outrageously in “The Cure”. After learning that his immigrant parents have become millionaires, the lead develops a habit of burning money, literally. Rahul Mehta is also interested in showing same-sex relationships, particularly when they are on the point of failing, which provides a lot of those heart-breaking moments.
The leads, who are young men not only navigate the minefields that most people in love must wander through, but also end up dealing with the strain of having to explain their sexual orientation to their parents. These parents who were brough up in cultures that are far less permissive of any other sexual orientation other than heterosexual and it is quite different from the culture they have raised their children. While in most stories ethnic and sexual identity are pivotal to the leads, the book is most successful in handling the angst, love, and rejection.
Released in 2010, Rahul Mehta’s Quarantine caused quite a controversy in India. It was about the frank representation of sexuality and the openness about the confusion experienced by Indian-Americans, and its characters’ questioning tradition. The book gave frank review of what a second-generation Indian-American experiences and particularly an out gay Indian-American.The author has a tremendous talent for pulling the reader out of the clichés he’s obviously conscious of inventing. He has built a sturdy set of planks that appear to be intended to help him, as well as the reader, bridge age, cultural, and sexuality. The book is available on Amazon.