I recently read a book by an Indian author that I quite liked. I was desperately looking for a funny book to read, when a friend suggested this one.
A Yale valedictorian & hot-shot investment banker from Wall Street, who is also the son of Indian immigrant parents in the United States, quits his job as he is sick of making money for rich people & of the monotony of his life working at Wall Street. Instead he decides to enroll at IIM Bangalore in an attempt to connect with his roots & infuse some excitement in his life.
As expected, his parents throw a fit as they can’t fathom why their son, who has everything going for him in terms of career, would decide to give it all up & run back to the life they ran away from. His colleagues, who are just as disillusioned with their lives, admire his guts & give him a thumbs up, while his ex-employer makes him an open offer to come back whenever he chooses to.
The guy heads to Bangalore in search of a new life with more meaning, where his first encounter (right off the airplane) is with another IIM student, Shine Sarkar, who lives to smoke pot. This gives you an idea of the events that are to unfold. On the first day of class itself, our protagonist, who thought he would outsmart his classmates (after all, he graduated from Yale with honors, didn't he?), realizes that he can’t come up with a single intelligent question to ask during class or with a single quick answer! And there starts his decline.
His batchmates hate him. They perceive him to be one of those “lost American kids” who give up all that ever matters (a job in investment banking on Wall Street of all places, a six-figure dollar-salary etc.) in a foolish attempt to find his “soul”.
Gradually (actually not SO gradually), his grades start to plummet as he stops caring about b-school, his days are spent smoking pot & listening to gyan dispersed by Shine Sarkar (a brilliant IIT graduate who spends all his time drinking & smoking hash, yet manages to ace his b-school classes & who later turns out to be the son of the Finance Minister of India). He ends up finding himself in situations he had never dreamt of finding himself in – a prison cell in Bangalore (having gotten caught with a stash of marijuana in his car), a one-night stand with a Danish hippie in Dharamsala, a bizarre encounter with a cannibal on the banks of the Ganges in Benaras & peddling soap (as part of his summer internship with an FMCG major) to the formidable Raja Bhaiyya. He survives the two years of cut-throat competition at the IIM & ends up in a place he would never have thought ending up in during his years at Yale or Wall Street!!
The book is an honest attempt to make you laugh till your sides ache. I thought it would be one of the many ‘Five Point Someone’ wannabe books by an Indian author but I was surprised to find that it was not. The basic premise is the same – both books are set at two of the most competitive campuses in India – but the experiences & the events are totally different. I also feel that Karan Bajaj is a much better author to read than Chetan Bhagat. The latter, I feel, is more hype.
So if you’re looking for a breezy weekend read, or a light funny read after a hard day at work, pick up ‘Keep Off The Grass’ by Karan Bajaj. For those who are not too fond of visiting bookstores, the book is available for download here. Have fun reading!!