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A (Contemporary) Classic Downer


The incessant patter of rain through the night. Dawn, the trees greener than before, drops of water clinging to leaves. Rays of sunshine reflect off the water, and find a way to enter the room through carefully placed layers of window dressings fortified with towels and sheets. Crows cawing, interspersed with sparrows chirping. The maid screaming at her son, in a voice that would have made a tenor immensely proud, asking him not to pee outdoors. A lone mosquito buzzing malaria and dengue in my ear, waking me up several hours ahead of schedule. Bad days, I now know, begin this way.

Later that evening, I finished Chetan Bhagat's Five Point Someone, a book that the author's website describes as a contemporary classic. Hmm.

Now if a book starts with,

Before I really begin this book, let me first tell you what this book is not. It is not a guide on how to live through college.

you really have no business reading it. But I did. I mean, who can resist a low priced book that promises to let you relive the best years of your life?

Five point someone is about the lives of three underachievers at one of the Indian Institutes of Technology – a series of missteps bring them to the brink of (academic) extinction. And then, a magical missive arrives and sets things straight. But the book is not about the plot: it is a just a series of incidents that are supposed to make you all nostalgic about your own life at college.

Five point someone is also about atrociously bad writing that hovers precariously in the region between just awkward usage and outright bad grammar.

“God, you look a mess,” Ryan greeted in the toilet as we were shaving together.

I kind of went inside myself in that short span of time before Cherian's office door opened again and sealed our fate, just sat quietly and ignored what Ryan and Alok said, that is if they did say anything.

The writing manages to effortlessly overshadow any merits the book might have – believable characters, realistic dialogues and (on occasion) funny incidents, resulting in the poorest read since the likes of um… can't think of anything right now. The Inscrutable Americans, maybe?

The book did (is doing) really well in India – apparently due to a smart publishing strategy that priced the book very low. Chetan Bhagat even got himself a follow-up deal to write another book called One Night @ the Call Center, and that book is out now. Ominously, Bhagat's website touts this one as another contemporary classic. Hmm once again.

Jai Arjun Singh has good words for One Night @ the Call Center – he calls it an improvement over Five Point Someone. Now that's not saying much, is it?