There are a number of interesting facts that make Stupid Guy Goes to India a must read; it’s a travelogue in its soul, a Manga comic at heart, but most importantly it is a celebration of the human spirit.
Being a Manga, written by Yukichi Yamamatsu, the first thing that is most likely going to strike you, the reader, is the need to get used to reading it from back to front and from left to right. Not a gargantuan task mind you, as it takes about a couple of pages and then you get used to it.
Now, you would imagine this is the first ever “Indian Manga”, and if so, you couldn’t be any more wrong.
The book, translated by Kumar Sivasubramanian, is the true story of the author, a Manga artist in his native Japan, coming to India to sell Manga comics translated in the local language. What follows is a chaotic journey into the underbelly of Delhi and a lesson in life, primarily for the author, but also for those that read the book.
Stupid Guy Goes to India is clichéd, to the core. You get to read about situations that we, as Indians, have been hearing of or have known about for years; the food and water being unhygienic, the language barriers, people trying to rip off tourists and the likes. It’s all there and yes being an Indian it hurts, but there is honesty in what we read and see on the pages. In fact, that is the one aspect of the book that stands up and above everything else, that Yamamatsu doesn’t hold back and writes/draws as it is, with unashamed rectitude, including the time he decides to go and pay for a prostitute.
Although the author has a very limited outlook towards Delhi, he forgoes visiting or mentioning the more “rich” residential localities, the malls, and the newer residences in the NCR regions, the book serves as a way to study the thriving backpacking culture that exists in certain parts of the city.
Living in small crowded areas, getting a Japanese book translated in to Hindi, multiple frustrating visits to the publishers, and trying to make ends meet with one ingenious idea after another, Stupid Guy Goes to India is also a story of human nature and its resilience to overcome the hardest of situations. Yamamatsu’s grand plan to publish a Manga in India, while having battled cancer, and readily face one obstacle after another, is nothing short of the triumph of human will.
The reader needs to look at Stupid Guy Goes to India with an open understanding and mind and look beyond the surface into its depth. On the surface it might seem like any story of a tourist who has spent some time in India and faced difficulties. It might even serve as a great guide to help you prepare for a trip, but it is Yamamatsu and his never say die attitude that emerges as the “real story” and what makes the book a heart-warming and crazy adventure that one can only dream about.
Available with Blaft Publications the book has since had a sequel, Stupid Guy Goes Back to India, which takes the story forward from where Stupid Guy Goes to India ends. However, it misses out on the opportunity of being different and continues on the same path making it a little repetitive and not as interesting as its predecessor.
Both the books do make for a lovely little double-bill that could either be used to scare off any tourist planning to visit the country, prepare them of what to expect in some cases, or if you are a local, then it leaves you with something to think about, and a little introspection is never bad.