“You’re looking for unicorns among mules.” – Sanjay Nigam, Transplanted Man
In the Transplanted Man, Sanjay Nigam creates a feeling of loneliness and uncertainty, of searching for something that might not actually be there. He asks questions that many of us have had at some point, about life, death, love, home, belonging, wandering, the mystical, spontaneity, culture, geography, and uncertainty.
I didn’t expect much from the book when I first picked it up at my local library. I was looking for some mild amusement and a change of pace for winter break, and the Transplanted Man simply happened to catch my eye. I read the jacket summary and flipped through a few pages, then I decided to borrow it. Perhaps I was intrigued by some sentiment of my once pre-med orientation. Or maybe it echoed my own sense of being lost at the time.
The Transplanted Man features various characters tied together by the modern Indian diaspora and by their location in New York City’s Little India. Nigam spins his characters into a seemingly haphazard nest that is somehow stitched together into a well-organized web of purpose and an inquisitive sense of peace. While each of the characters have their own stories, they are all connected to Dr. Sunit “Sonny” Seth, a brilliant sleepwalking resident with wanderlust, and the eponymous Transplanted Man, a mysterious VIP and the sickly Indian Minister of Health.
Although the story focused on the specific Indian experience of diaspora, I found that I could identify with the central questions of home, uncertainty, and feeling lost or stuck in place. Who am I? Where do I belong? What if?
The book starts out neutral, with a hint of bitterness. It slowly builds into a mixture of adventure, expectation, hope, and love – but with a seed of catastrophe. Near the end, the weak structures the characters built come crashing down and invite feelings of betrayal, sorrow, and despair. However, the end invites us to hope again and move on despite what may happen.
So, if you’re looking for an uplifting read and don’t mind a little soul searching, try the Transplanted Man by Sanjay Nigam. You’ll learn about a different culture (if you’re not Indian American), see a new perspective (if you are Indian American), and maybe learn about yourself in the process.