Friday, December 02, 2005

Deccan Herald - Sunday, 13 November 2005

Triumph of the Mediocre
Tarun Cherian

Mediocre but Arrogant’ by Abhijit Bhaduri, follows the 84 batch of MIJ (Management Institute of Jamshedpur, a very thinly disguised XLRI) through 2 years of MBA – one covers QT, Marketing, Crowd Dynamics, and of course pairing, ambition, friendship… etc, etc, etc. The book looks through the eyes of Abbey, a DU, SRCC graduate who out of happenstance, (that he pretentiously terms serendipity) lands up in MIJ. ‘Mediocre but Arrogant’ doesn’t have a plot, or a semblance of one, but funnily that doesn’t really seem to matter, for what the book has in abundance is characters— that seem to be taken from your gang of college friends, (if of course you did post-graduation, or more specifically an MBA in the 80’s in India).

There’s Rusty, the streetsmart friend, Haathi, the institute doyen, who looks beyond the course to preparing the batch for life, Gopher, the slimy one, and Priya, Keya and Ayesha— the love interest… Fundu (needs no intro), Sethu, the resident brain… And friends is what Abbey needs in abundance, for the transition from an easy-going DU eco graduate to half-baked MBA type takes all the efforts of friends like Rusty.

Abhijit claims that Abbey is not autobiographical. Maybe not autobiographical of himself, but it feels like the autobiography of the 80’s college kid. Unlike the hippy 60’s, the naxalite & emergency 70’s, the 80’s college scene was, by and large, typified by a generation without causes— except maybe a decent job, a girlfriend, finding the dosh to buy rum, and going abroad.

Quite appropriately, nothing happens in ‘Mediocre but Arrogant’. Just the usual. Job interviews. Dates. Trying to pass. Crazy Profs. Friends. Real friends. Half enemies. Booze outs. Bob Dylan. But in that nothing happening, something happens. Friends, exams, late nights, affairs… the stuff from which college memories are constructed. The stuff that inspires drunken speeches at old college friends’ meetings. It is in this space of relating college life, the ‘no big deals’ of almost every 80’s college kid that Abhijit has excelled. The authenticity of the dialogues, friends, incidents, phattas, attitudes are the book’s heart. But what really makes it work is the interleaving of these in a quixotic, ‘non-linear edit’. Leaving behind a “We are like this only” feeling.

For long, too long, Indian writing, has tended to avoid the drab marketplace of life, the space of the middle-class-familiar. Life, ‘Mediocre but Arrogant’, reminds us (with oodles of nostalgia) is not just about the brilliance of the brilliant, but also equally heroic are the minor triumphs of the mediocre.

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1 comment:

sahil said...

i'd like to add that MBA also imbibes hope...hope to flunk drastically and then write a book (thats what i'm gonna do, any takers?)