‘Detour to Canada’, a debut work of Canada-based Keralite, Sunil Nair has a simple storyline. An Indian student Vinu who has no focus in life dreams of going to the United States of America. But future has something else in store for him. He reaches Canada and he aspires to go to the US from there. During his stay in Canada, his life and perception changes. The elements that bring the change forms the crux of the story. The book is too simple that the question, ‘does the reader need such a simple tale at a time when technology rules the roost’, pops up. It should have been told more than 20 years ago.
Even the fact that this is the author’s debut book could not salvage him from some of the grave mistakes he had committed here. Firstly, home work, a prerequisite for any kind of endeavour is absent. Sadly, it is too conspicuous that it can halt a reader from moving ahead with the story.
There are many such instances in the book that can prove it beyond doubt. When Ramdas’s (Vinu’s father) cousin Raj calls from the USA, the former inquires about the hurricane ‘Sandy’ that has hit America. Ramdas who is unaware of the incident, would have known it from his son who constantly googles about that country. To Ramdas’s query, Raj expresses surprise and replies as follows - ‘You guys already got the news about hurricane? India sure is catching up on international news.’ This is a bit far-fetched. People of India were never that ignorant. The author should have taken pains to know the pulse of changing India.
The other instance is Vinu dialling 911 instead of 011, the telephone code of India from Canada. Is a computer science graduate from Kochi, that ignorant? Can’t he just simply know that 911 is an emergency number? There is another instance where Vinu expresses wonder over the importance given to Mahatma Gandhi in a foreign land. The author entirely forgot the fact that even the President of the United States has a photo of Mahatma Gandhi in his office cabin. When Barack Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize, the whole world interpreted it as a victory of the ideals of Gandhi.
Next comes the language. The book lacks creative flow. Though you read English, you will feel like you are reading Malayalam. A few examples to show that: ‘You are on his side. Just tie him to your sari and keep him with you forever.’; ‘Please don’t start now.’ ; ‘They will kill me then and there.’; ‘There will be fireworks in the house now.’ (here the author is referring to the verbal duel that is about to begin); ‘He is not a typical type....’, the list is endless.
Some portion of the story is like what to do to study in the USA. It seems that the book never went to the editing table. The work of the author could fare better if it paid attention to these details.
Interestingly, even with these flaws, there a was moment in the book that could bring tears in the eyes of the reader.
Even if it’s for a second, the author could bring that emotional element. Mistakes are of course the stepping stone to learning. A big appreciation for the author who took the courage to put it out what he has.