11 May 2012

Asok the Intern in Dilbert is Not All in Life in the Indian Institute of Technology

Pop fiction | Chetan Bhagat, Parul Mittal

I finally got around to reading Chetan Bhagat's iconic first novel, Five Point Someone. I'd read his book One Night @ the Call Center, and couldn't understand all the fuss. One Night... is literally a Deus ex machina book (yes, this is a spoiler). Light, frothy, with negligible substance, and needing God to pull the characters through to the end. Bleah. (Edit: And, what's worse, he spells it Center, not Centre, like any real Indian should). Then I saw the movie Three Idiots, about which there was quite a brouhaha, with C Bhagat insisting that he didn't get enough credit for the story, and the producer-director saying it was 'only based on' the book, and not a film version of the book.

So, I finally sat down with Five Point Someone. Bhagat is that over-exalted Indian bird, an IIT graduate. His book is a story of the life of IIT students. Neither before nor after. There is very little backstory and no forward story. Four years in the life of three IIT students and friends. Subtitled What Not to do at IIT, which should give further clues.

I've been told by others that it's his best book. It's certainly an easy read. The language has just enough Indianisms in it to be authentic, but not so many that a foreigner cannot understand it. The references to contemporary culture and products are just right. It's easy to see why this book became a runaway bestseller.

And also that the producer of Three Idiots had it right. The movie and the book have very little in common beyond three friends studing in an engineering college.

And if you read this, you should also read Parul Mittal's Heartbreaks & Dreams, the view from the minority—the girls at IIT. I actually liked P Mittal's book better, felt it was more realistic in many ways. But then, of course, I too was one of the 'girls at IIT'--that biases me. :) That said, C Bhagat's book is better edited and better marketed.

[Five Point Someone is for ₹ 91 on flipkart.com, and Heartbreaks & Dreams is only merely ₹ 65. Peanuts. Go buy it now.]

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