I finally found, read and loved a book that hasn’t been extensively reviewed (yet) on the blogosphere! If you aren’t already enticed by the title, get a load of this: an Indian investment banker on Wall Street, born and brought up in the US, decides to quit his million dollar job to go to India to find his roots. He enrolls himself at IIM (Indian Institute of Management) Bangalore, and what ensues is a hillarious chase of answers, grades and weed.
Keep off the grass - Karan Bajaj
Obviously, the IIM turns out to be completely different from typical B-schools in the US and elsewhere. Samrat Ratan, the protagonist, once a Yale valedictorian and a big-shot banker, is pitted against the super-brained IITians from the country, only to discover that mediocrity has its own virtues. His constant struggle between his American upbringing and Indian roots initially finds no solace in the rat-race of grades and jobs, until he realizes that relationships are what really matter.
In his quest for happiness, Samrat meets Sarkar and Vinod, the former an incredibly smart guy with not a care in the world, the latter an army officer who lived through the Kargil war. Sarkar’s is a very enticing, twisted character, never without marijuana, alcohol and smokes, and with a simple, life philosophy on wasting away:
I think suffering is the fate of the human soul, and in its acceptance is happiness. Really, why wouldn’t there be suffering when death is the only real certainty in life? It’s like trying to enjoy a movie when you already know the climax, and a sad one at that. I guess this inevitablility of doom is the reason why there is an unknown vacuum in all of us, a vague sense of dissatisfaction. [...] Somewhere in IIT, I think I figured out that I would embrace the doom, in a slow, deliberate destruction. Kind of like a moth slowly flirting with the flame instead of being surprised when it is thrust into it by an unknown force.”
The IIM adventure is complete with a prison-stay, a stint in the hinterlands of India, a freaky experience with hermits in Benaras and a meditation course in the Himalayas. Of course, each adventure is tripled by getting stoned on endless joints, and in his defence, Sarkar has a rather valid argument:
“I smoke it in protest man – Marijuana exists naturally as a plant . Who is the government to ban God’s creation? It’s like me wanting to make potatoes illegal because I don’t like their taste.”
Karan Bajaj, the author, a BCG management consultant and an ex-P&G brand manager, did a fantastic job of bringing to life the atmosphere of B-school in India. I must admit that I got so absorbed into the book, I forgot for sometime that it was only well-crafted fiction. There is no dirth of wit, humor, sarcasm and irony on any page.
If you’ve forgotten what it’s like to be a student, or if you’re looking for something to make you laugh out loud, this is the book for you! Get your copy and tell me how you like it.