Americans in India
Paul Theroux writes of two people, living completely separate lives, but living quite similar realities. The two both start out with a jarring experience to take their trip to India in a direction they didn't think it would go. For Dwight, it was his first meeting with the girl. He hated India, but at the first sign of kindness, learned that there might be something to like about it. For Alice, it was the betrayal of Stella which made her reexamine her real reasons for taking the trip.
The next step was feeling comfortable. Both Dwight and Alice soon grew very comfortable in their new homes, and almost felt a part of the culture. Dwight sank into his daily routine of the monotonous meetings, then taking a taxi to meet Indru, while simultaneously Alice spent most of her day in Electric City working at InfoTech and then took a taxi back to the ashram at Sai Baba at night. These are what Dwight would call "indian surprises", what makes you realize that India is more than a business trip, more than a graduation trip, but something like a home. These are also extremely strong contrasts of the two sides of India, which take turns playing the dominant role in its image to the outside world. One is the industrial working world of India, where the lights never stop shining and labor is cheap. The other side is the spiritual side, the familial side, which Dwight and Alice both thought they fit into perfectly.
Then, the both of them had an unfortunate realization. For Dwight, it was the day on the beach when his secret was revealed. And for Alice, it was the series of events with Amitabh, leading in her being raped. Both of these climactic moments lead to a serious reevaluation on how much either character truly "belonged" in India. Before, race was never an issue either of them had considered. But now, they both felt a racial and cultural divide in everything they did. They realized they couldn't pretend to be part of such a tight knit family as the culture of India that doesn't trust easily. Dwight felt "wisible" while Alice felt the extreme divide on the train with the women and their children.
Finally, the two characters both had a spiritual experience at the end which reaffirmed the entire situation for them. It put things in perspective for both of them and, thankfully, made it so both trips had a positive end. For Dwight, he finally was free of his bad cravings and only wanted to live life, sort of like the Jain philosophy. For Alice, she was finally freed of her pain she felt from being raped when she released her spiritual guide, the elephant, freeing him and freeing her soul as he also stomped away all of the pain that was brought to her in this terrible time.
The greatest part of these parallel stories is that Theroux implies that these two people are just two of the millions of American travelers that think they can assimilate into Indian culture. Every day, he seems to say, there could be another that falls victim to the confrontational family that is India. But in the end, he hopes, they will come out of it better, more spiritual, more thoughtful, more caring, or anything. India will effect you one way or another, and you just have to stay long enough so that it is a positive effect.