‘You Are Happy?’ by Akhil Sharma

You Are Happy? by Akhil Sharma, 2017

The magic trick:

Establishing a theme in two eye-catching sentences

We feature this in India Week on the SSMT even as the author and protagonist of the story both moved from India to the United States at a very young age. That’s OK for our purposes, though. This story certainly has much to say about India, particularly in relation to the U.S. culture.

Consider two incredibly dramatic – even shocking – sentences in this story.

The opener: “Break her arms, break her legs,” Lakshman’s grandmother would say about her daughter-in-law, “then see how she crawls to her bottle.”

And about hallway through: Later, Lakshman would think that it was probably falling in love with this girl that had caused his father to decide to have Lakshman’s mother murdered.

Those two poles establish the story’s main idea very simply. Lakshman’s father rejects his mother’s suggestion, insisting instead on following the laws of his new home country. Then he adopts the American lifestyle in a much different way.

It’s an interesting way to look at the immigrant experience through two eye-catching sentences. And that’s quite a trick on Sharma’s part.

The selection:

The drinking overtook her quickly. By the time Lakshman was nine, she was drinking during dinner. His father, who rarely drank, protested. “Every night you have to drink?”

“I can’t have a little happiness? Is there something wrong with me that I must suffer?”

When Lakshman was eleven, she started drinking during the day. His parents’ marriage had been arranged by their parents, who did business together, and his mother and father had never really liked each other. Around that time, they stopped sleeping in the same room. To the extent that they spoke at all, it was either in shouts or in sarcasm. “Do you know what kind of people drink during the day?” his father said, shaking a finger at her. “Drunkards. You are a drunkard.”

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