Sunday, November 19, 2006

A Novel Pastime - Rashmi Bansal in Business World

I discovered this piece that came out in Business World in July 2005. Rashmi Bansal - the author is an IIM-A graduate and founder-editor of youth magazine JAM. She can be reached at

Where do you see yourself five years from now? That's a standard question every B-school applicant is prepared for. "Writing a novel" is not the standard or acceptable answer. But that is exactly what a bunch of graduates from premier B-schools are doing. By day, they are investment bankers and brand managers. By night, they toil away at their keyboards, tapping into their own experiences to spin out slice-of-life stories that appeal to 'People Like Us'.
Abhijit Bhaduri’s debut novel Mediocre But Arrogant, the first of a trilogy, will be launched this July

IIM Ahmedabad graduate Chetan Bhagat relived his IIT days in Five Point Someone. Swati Kaushal's stints at Nestle and Nokia provided rich fodder for Piece Of Cake, a light-hearted tale set in corporate India. And that's just the beginning. July 2005 sees the launch of Mediocre But Arrogant, a story of love and life in the fictitious Management Institute of Jamshedpur (MIJ). No prizes for guessing author Abhijit Bhaduri's alma mater - it's XLRI

Says Bhaduri: "Anyone who has gone through a business school or lived in a hostel will be able to identify with the characters in the novel." In fact, Mediocre But Arrogant (MBA) is the first of a trilogy. The second book will follow the protagonist into the corporate world, and the third one sees him fulfil his 'dreams'. Writing these books itself has been just that for Bhaduri, who otherwise works as part of the global HR team at Colgate-Palmolive in New York (See 'In B-school, As In Life').A novel is a labour of love. Like a good pot of coffee, it takes time and patience to brew. Says Bhagat: "The idea had been floating in my head for over eight years. But much of the process took place over a three-year period." The process meant waking up an hour early and writing - day after day and sometimes late into night. After nine drafts and a complete rewrite later - Five Point Someone was born. Then came the really 'hard part' of finding a publisher.

"Everyone, except Rupa, rejected it. They found the topic, title, language - everything too unusual," recalls Bhagat. With 100,000 copies having flown off the shelves in less than a year, both author and publisher are now having the last laugh. Smart pricing has played its part in Five Point Someone's success. At a youth-friendly Rs 95, the book has achieved cult sales. For Rupa, the book is a worthy successor to The Inscrutable Americans, one of its best sellers for over a decade.

For Swati Kaushal, writing Piece Of Cake was a one-and-a-half year project. "I had a very clear idea of the office bits, but only as disparate scenes," says the IIM Calcutta graduate, who now lives in Minneapolis, US. Certainly, the descriptions of the 'advertising meeting in the fourth floor conference' room and life in the 'northern region sales office' are the book's most entertaining, insightful bits.The central character, heavily inspired by Bridget Jones, is 29-year-old Minal Sharma - the archetypal MBA trying to 'have it all'. Says Kaushal: "In the Indian context, despite all the recent permissiveness one reads about, I feel women still agonise over marriage, career, family expectations and trying to make it all work out." Though reviews have been mixed, the light-n-bright read seems to have found enough takers. Penguin is going in for a second reprint just two months after its initial release.

If Piece Of Cake is chick lit for the 20-somethings, Deeptha Khanna's Vinita Sharma, The Year I turned 16 is going to be its teen counterpart. The book, set for release by Puffin in 2006, is the 'diary of a wonderful young girl who is a teenager in present-day India'. Khanna, an IIM Bangalore graduate and brand manager with P&G, Singapore, says she met hundreds of teens in the course of her consumer work. And what struck her was that most of the impressions about teenagers are so one-dimensional.

"I remembered how I was as a teen - idealistic, impressionable, hormonal (!) and decided I wanted to write a book that reflected the real Indian teenager. I did justice to more aspects of their lives than just the clothes they wear and the music they listen to." Khanna's heroine is sassy without being 'yo'. The book follows Vinita through a chaotic year in her young life - deep friendships, heartbreaks, me vs my parents conflicts and the eternal quest for identity. Contemporary issues like Internet porn and the DPS MMS sex clip are also woven in.Mainak Dhar's first foray into published fiction was Flashpoint, a novel based on a fictional India-Pakistan war. The IIM-A graduate, who is currently associate marketing director at P&G, Singapore, had earlier co-authored two books on economics - a subject he studied at Delhi University. "I think I'm still at an early stage in really discovering myself as a writer," says Dhar. "I would like to see myself taking a full-time plunge into writing unlike today where I have a full-time corporate job. Writing is a passion I indulge in my spare time."
MBAs turning to writing is actually not surprising because many Indian B-school graduates are simply exceptionally bright individuals who followed the easiest path available to them. An IIM or XLRI campus is invariably host to a pool of versatile talents. And for these young people who could have been artists, musicians or filmmakers, treading the road to respect and riches has been less fraught with risk.

Interestingly, all these MBA-turned-authors are currently based abroad. Perhaps they have more 'spare time' there? Both Kaushal and Khanna are, in fact, currently on sabbaticals from work. "You cannot write about something unless you put sufficient distance between it and yourself," muses Kaushal. "Since Piece Of Cake drew so heavily from personal experiences in the corporate world (though it's by no means a memoir) I don't think I could have written it while I was still working." Dhar, however, feels the solitude that comes with living abroad leads to introspection. Hence, the self expression. Post Flashpoint, he has written a collection of poetry, Face In The Mirror, which was published in early 2004. Khanna is also on to her next book - a set of 12 short stories for children titled Chari Thatha's Nature Stories. Kaushal's second book goes a "little deeper" and focusses on a 15-year-old girl.Meanwhile, Five Point Someone is being made into a film. Movie rights to the novel were snapped up by Ten Films in June 2004. Thirty-something director Ritesh Sinha, a former advertising man, who says he relates completely with the book, promises "not to ruin the gripping story with song and dance sequences". For one MBA-turned-novelist at least, that's a dream debut - with a fairytale ending.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

No 2 on the Deccan Herald Bestseller List on Nov 5-2006

Sunday, November 5, 2006


1. The Afghan
; Frederick Forsyth, Rs 264

2. Mediocre but Arrogant; Abhijit Bhaduri, Rs 195

3. The Alchemy of Desire; Tarun J Tejpal, Rs 295

4. 7 Ancient Wonders; Matthew Reilly, Rs 295

5. A Million Little Pieces; James Frey, Rs 331

6. To Kill a Mocking Bird; Harper Lee, Rs 264


1. The Monk who sold his Ferrari; Robin S Sharma, Rs 175

2. Winners never cheat; Jon M Huntsman, Rs 199

3. Icons; Steve Jobs, Rs 385

4. A Call to Honour; Jaswant Singh, Rs 495

5. The Google Story; David A Vise, Rs 295

Courtesy: Crossword Book Store

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Abhishek Kumar from Radio Mirchi writes

Hi ! Abhijit,

Read yr book, thoroughly enjoyed it !!! It took me through a range of emotions. Infact, the other day I was telling one of friends that this book is so relatble that even if someone called "Abhishkatoo sitting in Timbaktoo" reads this book he will be able to relate to it. I guess that`s wat is so beautiful about your book. It transcends all geographical, cultural, social & economic barriers.

Having read the book felt me scoring 2/10 in QT during my MBA was'nt that bad (just joking) !!!

What really made me think was the last page wherein protagonist reads the letter given by Prof.Hathaway. All this while I wondered if an MBA made any difference to my career (read as life) . After reading the last page I realize that the impact does not really have to be very apparent, it can be at a subliminal level as well !!!

Why do'nt you plan a sequel to this book called "Shallow But Aggressive". A book which will delve on:-

1) What happened to Abbey when he enters Shallow but Aggressive world called as corporate. What are his initial experiences ?
2) What are Abbey`s feelings when he finds Ayeshas all around him. Does his longing for Priyas increase ?
3) How does Abbey deals with not one but hundreds of Ghopher around him?
4) Does he want another Rusty to come & help him or he grows up to become Rusty or may be better
5) Very important, did Keya come to Delhi ? Did she meet Abbey? Her side of story etc ????
6) Does he get amused to see shallowness all around him ?

Guess, there are so many more questions which can be addressed. Please, do not think of me as a cynic or someone who is against this corporate world or culture. Was jus thinking that there is'nt any book which deals with the human side of corporate world. This book can be very funny & emotional & for few a guide to learn & adjust to the norms of this "Shallow but Aggressive" world

Abhishek Kumar

Monday, October 16, 2006

What Men Want? Vandana Kalra of Indian Express has the insight

What men want

After chick lit, it’s men’s turn to turn on the tap of creativity. The new literary genre is called lad lit

Vandana Kalra

Move over Bridget Jones, Mark Darcy is here. After the hyped arrival of chick lit as a genre, men have decided to keep pace, coming up with their own version of a literary strand called—no surprises here—lad lit. So even as debate rages over the limitations and frivolity of the genre, the works are raking up sales and rising in popularity, inspiring a new breed of lad lit writers.

Cases in point are the first anniversary edition of Abhijit Bhaduri’s celebrated B-school drama, Mediocre But Arrogant, which hits the market this week, the success of Chetan Bhagat’s Five Point Someone and One Night @ the Call Center and Nirpal Singh Dhaliwal’s Tourism released earlier this year, which managed rave reviews. The soaring sales, not merely of the Indian lad lit, but international counterparts like JD Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye, Nick Hornby’s About a Boy and High Fidelity, Kyle Smith’s Love Monkey and Nick Laird’s Utterly Monkey also indicate the growing interest in this new style.

“People aren’t really aware about the genre, but are gradually becoming interested in purchasing works that fall into the category,” says Anil Arora, proprietor of Bookworm in Connaught Place. The USP of the genre? “The feeling that ‘this story is so much like mine’,” says Bhaduri, whose Mediocre But Arrogant chronicles the life of an unambitious drifter who is clueless about his post-graduation plans. “Lad lit has the ability to blur the line between fact and fiction and the readers can often recognise their own selves and their acquaintances among the characters of the novel,” he adds.

However, unlike Bhaduri, most authors and publishers prefer not to categorise their work. “Lad lit is essentially a form of writing that is targeted at the young male audience and none of the Indian writings fit into that classification,” says Ravi Singh, editor-in-chief of Penguin. So while Sudeep Chakravarti’s Penguin publication Tin Fish, a nostalgic narrative of a 15-year-old studying in Mayo College in the 1970s, may have the essentials of a lad lit, Chakravarti doesn’t prefer to term it as one. Says he, “It’s simply about a youngster’s tribulations and experiences. It appeals to a cross-section of society, not simply the lads, so why call it lad lit?”

The denunciation is apparent, but also much needed. As Singh explains, “Lad lit is usually targeted at young men and they comprise a very minute segment of the pulp fiction readers in India. So the readership is limited the moment you term a work lad lit.” The Wikipedia definition of lad lit doesn’t do much for the genre either: “(A) literary genre that features books written by men and focusing on young male characters, particularly those who are selfish, insensitive and afraid of commitment.”

While the authors still ponder over the definition and relevance of lad lit, there’s no arguing that the works are flying off the shelves. “Lad lit is here to stay and will continue till all college/school campus settings have been utilised,” predicts Bhaduri.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Display at Universal Books, Lucknow, India

Professor Madhukar Shukla of XLRI has just sent in photos of the book Mediocre But Arrogant. He clicked the picture in Lucknow, India at the Universal Bookstore.

It is always fascinating to see which books my book is keeping company of. Whether in someone's bookshelf at home or at a major bookshop. It must be some kind of analysis that says that people who buy a particular book TEND to buy some other books from a predictable list. Is that something you can predict? What do you think?

If you see an interesting photo of the display of Mediocre But Arrogant with "interesting neighbours", do send me a photo with details of the bookshop where the photo was taken. I would love to publish it along with credits for the photo.

Madhukar also has a great photoblog at check it out.

Saturday, September 30, 2006

Englishiana, Anyone? asks Pramita Bose of Asian Age

English is changing with the times. Writers today are giving it a twist and tweak to make the queen’s language speak a modern tongue.

With simplicity and flexibility defining the current-day writing style, young writers are increasingly resorting to the more elastic and contemporary expressions. Some even play around with words to induce colloquialism, thus enabling the target readers identify with the plot as well as the characters.

Consider Gautam Malkani’s much talked about debut title Londonstani. Dealing with the diaspora of multi-religious South Asian immigrants, Malkani’s use of the rich slang tongue of indigenous culture smoothly blends with the US influences and other foreign languages.

Also, Nandita C. Puri’s maiden fictional collective piece Nine on Nine, which has gone into its third edition and has lodged a decent sales figure, has dollops of Hindi, Marathi and Bengali utterances such as aai, ladla, khichdi, phukat mein khana-paani, dais, kabirajes, hakims etc. Even tales woven around leading technological institutes and B-school campuses have generous doses of theek bola, babus, addas, Dadu’s dhaba, dhobi incorporated in bits and pieces.

Abhijit Bhaduri’s Mediocre But Arrogant and Chetan Bhagat’s Five Point Someone or the bestseller One Night @ The Call Center are just a few more cases in point. Not to lag behind, Neelum Saran Gour’s fourth novel, Sikandar Chowk Park is a striking example of Urdu-English jugglery.

Opines Puri, "Indian writers have now confidently broken free of the chaste British mould where one was expected to maintain the purity of Victorian English."

Echoing in the same vein, Bhaduri comments, "It’s but natural that every writer has to keep his target audience in mind while addressing certain issues in a narrative format. If the setting is Indian and the readers are youngsters or belong to middle-class households, then it’s wiser to adapt some traces of the vernacular dialect to retain onto the readers’ attention." We couldn’t agree more as all these books are selling like hot cakes.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Meeting with Saif Ali Khan

It was Friday evening in New York and it seemed that the sky had just been ripped open to pour rain on the cabs scurrying around Manhattan. It is good to be able to spend a weekend in the city. The sights were familiar. I was trying to refresh my memories and was going against the check list in my brain.

That's Port Authority between 8th and 42nd. I used to spend three and a half hours a day commuting to work. I used to dread the long commute. And then my life changed. I got a mp3 player for my birthday. I would board the New Jersey Transit bus and then insulate myself from the world through the headphones. Now I am back again for two weeks for a business meeting

After two previous attempts at turning my book into a movie fizzled out I have decided to take this up as an ongoing project ! If you really have a dream, the world will pool its resources to make it happen. It is so true. So everyone I meet and all friends, colleagues and relatives have been told that I am looking for people I could talk to who could possibly produce/ finance/ direct/ act/ edit/ in short, do anything to turn my book into a silver screen version. What is that bit about reaching anyone through six degrees of separation? The day before I left a friend told me, "I could set up a meeting between you and Saif Ali Khan in New York on Friday evening. Would that help?" Sure.

" I am shooting at the Brooklyn College Library at 2900 Bedford Avenue. Come over."said Saif.

Saif and Rani Mukherjee were shooting for the Tara Rum Pum Pum at the lovely Brooklyn College Library. This red brick building has a very romantic feel. The film due for release in Jan 2007 is directed by Siddharth Anand of Salaam Namaste fame.

In between the shots I pitched the plot of Mediocre But Arrogant to him. Saif read through random pages and seemed to like the feel of the story. He read through the letter from Haathi and said, "Will this have the potential to be a commercially viable film?" Sure. That depends on how skilfully the film is made, I say.

Sounds like a Dil Chahta Hai set in the campus is what he summarized the book as. That's a reasonable description, don't you think so? OK, we now have Saif who has expressed interest. Who do you think should play Rascal Rusty? Or Ayesha for that matter. Let me know. I will pitch to them too.

The photo with Saif was clicked by my friend Pradip Tripathy who works for MTV in US. This blog entry was written on their dinner table over hazaar food and adda with Pradip and his wife Anu.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

From the sets of Qatra Qatra Jeene Do

It was an amazing experience to say the least. To act in the film Qatra Qatra Jeene Do. The first shot was at Film City. The shot was supposed to be a 'dream sequence' in the film. My co-actor was Abeer Goswami who quit his corporate career to pursue his dreams of being an actor. Abeer is a regular in the TV serials. Good luck to you Abeer - more power to people who chase their dreams.

Films is all about precision. There is a Costume Coordinator whose job is to ensure that the clothes follow the chronological continuity in the film. So if the shot is about the character coming in to the office in the morning, the shirt should look appropriately crisp and ironed. If the
shot shows the character wearing the same shirt in the evening it should be creased and "fatigued". Hmmm...

I was very impressed with Irrfan's no nonsense approach to acting. When he comes to the set, he knows the lines for the entire shot. I would see him getting into elaborate discussions with Kaushik about the character and what was the key aspect of the character a particular scene was supposed to convey while the shot was being composed. All what one heard about temperamental movie stars certainly did not apply to Irrfan (why does he spell his name with RR?). Must be some numerologist's suggestion. Film folks are superstitious to say the least.

Kaushik has been agonizing over the title of the film. For a long time the title was "Buddhi" (the word for brain in Hindi) . Then someone put a spanner in the wheel by saying when written in English it could be mistaken as the word meaning old woman. So the suggestion was to change the spelling to "Budhdhi " or even "Budhhi Mera Naam" or "Mera Naam Budhhi". Someone suggested a one word title
"Sunoh" (meaning Listen). Another suggestion was "Laxman Rekha". That sounded too much like the name of a popular brand of pest repellants. Naah. So finally the name that appeared least controversial and "numerologically appropriate" was Qatra Qatra Jeene Do. That's Barun-da (Barun Mukherjee who had done the photography for the film Baghbaan. He gets a special lunch box from home with all kinds of Bengali delicacies packed in. I sampled some so I know.

After shooting the scenes one has to go back to the sound studio to dub the lines so that the soundtrack
is "clean" and does not have the sounds of the location where it was shot. Shobana (Full name Shobana Chandrakumaran Pillai) - a veteran of 150 films in five languages, was also dubbing her lines the day I had time booked at the studio. She plays the lead in this film and she was in the studio trying to read Hindi dialogues of the film written in Roman script. That is tough work. To be able to hear the track that has been recorded on the set and to lip sync the same dialogue while keeping the emotion consistent with the film's story and say the words within the same duration as they appear in the film is a challenge. Then for someone who does not speak the language it becomes a bigger hurdle. If I had to dub in Malayalam (or Tamil/ Telugu/ Kannada for that matter) I would have failed miserably for sure.
Qatra Qatra Jeene Do

Recently got a chance to act in a movie called "Qatra Qatra Jeene Do" - Qatra literally means a single drop of any liquid.

So the title describes the theme of the film - about living life one breath at a time.

The film is a story about Buddhi a special child whose parents played by Irrfan (of Maqbool fame) and Shobhana (of Mitr fame). The film is the debut film of Director Kaushik Roy (that's Kaushik the perfectionist trying to straighten the tie before shoot) and stars Anupam Kher, Rajat Kapoor among others. The costumes have been designed by Kaushik's wife Nina. Kaushik recently held a joint exhibition of paintings with his son Orko that was a runaway success. Besides being an artist, a film director and an accomplished photographer, Kaushik is a well known face in the advertising circles of India. The film is due for release in October 2006. Here are a few moments from the sets of Qatra Qatra Jeene Do.

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Monday, September 11, 2006

Pramita Bose of ASIAN AGE Writes about Mediocre But Arrogant

Modern Classics Spur Bollywood Filmmakers
9/9/2006 9:30:00 PM
- By Pramita Bose

As they say, literature is a reflection of life, so is cinema — the reel mirror of reality. It’s no surprise then that there have been back-to-back screen adaptations of good old literary classics plus period pieces in the past couple of years. But what about those films that project the contemporary world and its socio-economic scenario? Well, the present-day young writers are wholeheartedly considering their options to join the filmi fray and chip in their penned sagas on the silver screen.

Of late, the launch of noted author Vikram Chandra’s much-talked about title Sacred Games has prompted the industrywallahs to go gaga over its compelling storyline as a potential screenplay for the movie marquee. Confirming the offers already pouring in, Chandra says, "It’s true that the book has a cinematic feel to it but considering that it’s a magnum opus, one can only pluck out a few strands as a suspense thriller."
Also in the run is writer Abhijit Bhaduri’s famous B-school campus story Mediocre But Arrogant. "Discussions are on with eminent filmmakers. And Shyamji (Benegal) is impressed with the material, but suggested that somebody young can do justice to its onscreen portraiture. If you ask my personal choice, I’d definitely vote for Nagesh Kukunoor and Farhan Akhtar," he reveals. When quizzed about the lead pair, he adds, "Well, I can think of a cerebral actor like Aamir Khan and for the heroine’s role, Perizaad Zorabian would surely fit the bill. The characters are layered with multiple shades and make for an entertaining viewing."

Veteran author Neelum Saran Gour feels that her fourth novel Sikandar Chowk Park — set against the backdrop of brutal terrorist attacks is apt for filming. "It first came to my mind in a cinematic mode. The scenes are like sequences in films and so is the episodic movement. I think the filmed product would be rather close to the written version," she comments.
Finally, scribe- turned-sensitive writer Nandita Puri’s foray into screenwriting happened with Poonam Sinha’s Mera Dil Leke Dekho. An out-and-out situational comedy, it’s her maiden Bollywood project. Talking about resurgence of author-backed scripts amidst masala potboilers? Here you go.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Mediocre But Arrogant on the Deccan Herald's Bestseller List

Sunday, September 3, 2006



1. The Afghan; Frederick Forsyth (Rs 264)

2. The Kite Runner; Khaled Hosseini (Rs 318)

3. Mediocre But Arrogant; Abhijit Bhaduri (Rs 195)

4. Sacred Games; Vikram Chandra (Rs 650)

5. Seven Ancient Wonders; Mathew Reilly (Rs 295)

6. A Million Little Pieces; James Frey (Rs 331)

Courtesy Crossword Book Store

Recipe for a Bestseller by Anandita Gupta of The Tribune

Saturday 8th July 2006
Recipe for a bestseller

A number of first-time authors have come up with hit formulas by delving into their alma mater days, says Anandita Gupta

Hours of scribbling away furiously for those terrible term papers. Some endearing moments — playing guitar in starlit nights, lazy sessions for rum and debate at the local dhaba, singing Bob Dylan numbers, eyeing pretty girls….

Perfect stuff that college memories are made of. And stuff that seems to spell a surefire formula for writing a bestseller. For, more and more alumni of India’s premier professional institutes are turning first-time authors, writing about their first-hand experiences at their alma mater.
Harvard, IITs, IIMs, XLRI — the Holy Grail that a student would give his right arm to get hold of and rarefied environs that coveted companies frequent, hunting for their future CEOs. But, interestingly, these institutes have recently inspired a slew of stories based on them, written by their ex-students.

Chetan Bhagat, Abhijit Bhaduri and Tushar Raheja—the list seems predictable. For, this motley crew of young authors have all undergone the rigours of being in premier professional institutes and have ended up writing about them.

While Investment-banker and IIT alumni Chetan Bhagat explored the sensitivities of human bonding amidst the pressure of IIT’s grading system in his Five Point Someone, XLRI, Jamshedpur’s alumni Abhijit Bhaduri shatters the myth about MBAs being super brainy by dubbing them as ‘mediocre’ in his novel Mediocre but Arrogant.

Then, there’s Tushar Raheja, fourth-year student of the IIT, Delhi, who talks about an IITian’s quest for love in his breezy novel, Anything for you Ma’am. And not to miss the 19-year-old Kaavya Viswanathan’s depiction of the stressful times and stiff competition among high-schoolers for getting into universities like Harvard.

And look at Kaavya Vishwanathan. Despite the controversy surrounding her work, it is in demand. “Maybe, it’s the controversy that’s aroused people’s interest. But it’s also the theme of a high-school girl’s struggle to get into Harvard that has made this book attract youngsters,” says Ajay Arora from Capital Book Depot, Chandigarh.

These books neither boast of a well-knit plot, in-depth characters nor a linear edit. Still, these books have been bestsellers and the authors have been flooded with e-mails from students, demanding more. Beams HR professional-turned author Abhijit Bhaduri, “My inbox is flooded with mails asking me when is the sequel to Mediocre but Arrogant due.

Adds Chetan Bhagat, “My manuscript was rejected 12 times but I was determined and made my work reach out to people. But I’m surprised at the overwhelming response that’s come, despite my not being a professional writer.”

What, after all, is making these books sell like hot cakes? Explains Vipin Kinger from Asia Book House, Chandigarh, “The huge hullabaloo about premier professional institutes in India has inspired a lot of awe and curiosity among students, who read these books to get a slice of action from these institutes.”

Arora puts forth another perspective, “The professionals who’ve experienced studying in these reputed institutes wanna flip through the pages of these books out of sheer curiosity, to see how authentically are they written.”

Little wonder, such books are hogging the ‘bestseller shelves’ at bookstores occupying a few thousand square feet of expensive retail space. Fusing facts with fiction, they perfectly capture the fancy of Indian readers, who are craving for much more of this stuff. So, all you collegiates out there, keep making mental notes of all you are going through. Who knows, you’ll end up writing a bestseller some day.

Monday, July 31, 2006

Write Choice says The Telegraph (Calcutta Edition) 30 July 2006

Write choice by Varuna Verma
Many young new Indian authors are writing fiction in colloquial English — and their books are flying off the bookshelves, reports Varuna Verma

It took Tushar Raheja three months to write his first novel. The bulk of the book was written during the college summer vacations. “I wrote the rest during weekends and by bunking classes and getting my friends to give proxy attendance,” confesses the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Delhi, graduate. Raheja’s debut novel — Anything For You Ma’am: the love story of an IITian — was released in June this year.
Raheja admits that he is not typical author material. “I have never been a writer. I find it difficult to form flowing sentences. I don’t have a disciplined approach to writing,” says the 22-year-old author. But Raheja claims to be a wizard at storytelling. And he possesses a sense of humour and a crazy, always-up-to-something group of friends. “I decided to write a book on my life and friends,” he says.
Raheja’s book has been flying off the shelves. The 5,000 copies of the book’s first print were sold out in one month. The novel is now in its third print. “We get huge orders every day,” confirms J.K. Bose, managing director of the Delhi-based Srishti Publishers and Distributors, publishers of Raheja’s novel.
Ever since investment banker Chetan Bhagat pulled off two best sellers (One Night@The Call Center being one of them), many young Indians are discovering the writer in them. “A new genre of colloquially-written fiction is being explored in India. It is taking the mass market by storm,” says Kapish Mehra, head of the Delhi-based Rupa & Co. publishers.
It’s also clearly the age of on-the-fly writing. What were once essential (a big idea, literary prowess, time and a dedicated writing space) have become redundant. India’s new authors write on the move and about nothing in particular.

Star Sports anchor-turn- ed-author Gautam Bhimani wrote his debut book Reverse Sweep — about the lighter side of cricket — on airplanes, ships and Shatabdi trains. Bhimani was running against a deadline. “The Indian cricket team was going to be in Delhi in June this year and I wanted them to release the book,” he says. He wrote the bulk of the book in two months.
Ira Trivedi was even quicker. The 21-year-old model wrote her first novel What would you do to save the world in less than a month. “I have written for academic journals. Writing a novel was no different,” says the Columbia Business School student.

The typical setting for India’s new-age fiction is the college campus. And all elements of college life — hostel humour, bad food, nicknames — are woven into the story. “Readers write to me saying they can completely relate to my book,” says Abhijit Bhaduri, whose book Mediocre But Arrogant — is set in a B-school campus. Bhaduri is clear that he is no Dickens in the making. “My book is written in class notes style. I write like I speak,” he says.

Readers, for one, are not complaining. Bhaduri claims his debut novel sold 40,000 copies in one year — which qualifies the book to be a bestseller. He is already working on the second part of a planned trilogy. “In part two, my protagonist works in the corporate sector,” says Bhaduri, human resource director at Pepsico.

Ira Trivedi’s What would you do to save the world — a fictionalised exposé of India’s beauty pageant industry — is on the Crossword bestseller list. “Published two months back, 4,000 copies of the book have sold,” says Trivedi.
Debutant English authors in India have never had it so good. In money terms, the English book reading market in India is pegged at Rs 6,000 crore. “India has the fastest growing English-reading market in the world. It’s growing by a tenth every year,” says Srishti Publisher’s Bose. In the last two years, two international publishing houses — Picador and Random House — set up shop in India. “India’s growing English-speaking population is making the country a lucrative business destination for publishers,” says Bose. Also, reading is slowly getting back in fashion in India. “Five-star bookstores like Oxford, Crosswords and Landmark have made book buying a style statement. It has added a spin to the market for English books,” he adds.
Moreover, the growth in the general reading category is coming mostly from younger readers — people who are suddenly discovering that there are books on the shelves that reflect their lives, attitudes and angst. “The market is driven by young readers. And they want to read books that they can relate to,” says Basant Pandey, director, India Log Publications.
Publishers have been quick to pick up the cue. Pandey says India Log is always on the lookout for light-read books — literary benchmarks no bar. “Everyone wants to know about student life in an IIT or IIM campus. We keep an eye out for such manuscripts,” says Pandey.
In September this year, Shrishti Publishers will release a novel called Three makes a crowd on hostel life at Dehradun’s Rashtriya Indian Military College. “It’s a story of three friends and their escapades at IMA. It’s targeted at the college-going reader and is very simply written,” says author Kaushik Sirkar.
The strategy of publishing books by the young for the young is paying off. India Log Publishing — which opened shop in 2000 — has seen business grow by 25 per cent annually in the last two years. Shrishti Publishers claims to be growing by 30 per cent per annum. “The rules of book publishing have been redefined. We sell books at low costs and make money on volumes,” says Bose.
Low pricing and out-of-the-box marketing is the new game plan. Rupa sold Bhagat’s One Night@The Call Center for Rs 95 and advertised extensively on television channels like MTV. This had never been done for a book before. Despite mildly favourable reviews, 3.5 lakh copies of Bhagat’s book have sold so far. “Bhagat has earned close to Rs 1 crore from his books,” says Rupa Publisher’s Mehra.
Another big change in Indian writing is that it is no longer dependent on approval by the West. “The new authors talk exclusively to an Indian audience. In fact, a Western audience would not be able to comprehend the slang and similes used in their books,” says Bose.
Bhaduri, whose book has liberal doses of Dadu’s dhaba, Ganauri, the dhobi, addas and Navy Cut cigarettes, agrees. “The Western audience is not in focus anymore. Indians want to read about themselves and write like they talk,” he says.

Here's the link

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Smita Kulkarni from Sunnyvale, California says ...

Smita Kulkarni
"I was so happy to get this book from my sister. She sent it to me from Germany. Although the author was kind enough to offer to send me a hardcopy that he had with him, this one came just in time (there are no copies being sold in USA yet). I finished reading it in 3 days which equals about 5 hours of actual reading time on the California train.

My first impression after reading the initial 10 pages of the book was that like Shobhaa De's (referring to her comment about this book), this one took me back to my college days. For starters, I haven't heard the word "super-senior" in a long time. And it’s been a while since I heard the many slang words and all the very believable nicknames that Abhijit makes liberal use of in his book. It brought the college canteen/hostel back to life in my mind. However, if I weren't an Indian or hadn't gone to school in India, it would be a little harder to place most of them. Being a "day-scholar" I wouldn't have been able to identify with all the hostel life described, had my sister not been generous enough to let me visit her at hostel a couple of times. I'm sure it was a torture for her but I totally enjoyed myself :). Comparisons to "Five Point Someone" (another college caper set in the IIT Campus) are inevitable. Personally, I gave up reading that book after about 4 chapters but this one I had to finish!

I could totally identify with Abbey who doesn't really have much ambition and isn't even sure if he is doing the right thing with his life. All my life I have gone with the flow and never really knew if I actually wanted to be doing what I was doing. The only thing I probably couldn't digest was Abbey's love life. His attitude towards all the women was very casual and his sexual encounters are something that I couldn't imagine as being real, especially in the day and age the story is set. But again, student life and teens have changed so much in India that I don't even really consider myself as belonging to the current generation anymore. Abbey really seemed to lack any motivation to follow up on something that he cared about. This is evident in the relationships he shared with the women and their terminations. My favorite character (and also the author's, I hope) was Rascal Rusty. There is always this wise guy in every class who's a know-it-all and this fact never goes down well with most of the students. I also loved reading about the "Kumbhkaran" like roommate who chose sleep over everything else. The ending could have been a little less abrupt. When I finished the book, I didn't really feel like it was the end! All in all, a very good first attempt that kept me hooked (which is a lot more than I can say for the next book that I am reading!)"

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Saturday, May 06, 2006

ADOI - The Magazine for Media Professionals in SE Asia Carries a Review

Book Review

In 1999 he moved to a Regional role in the Asia Pacific Shared Services Organization for Colgate and was based out of Kuala Lumpur before moving on to a global role in New York at the Corporate Headquarters for Colgate-Palmolive. Abhijit Bhaduri has joined FritoLay - the Snacks division of Pepsico International as head of Human Resources for the BU.
ABHIJIT graduated from Shriram College of Commerce, Delhi University in Economics and then went on to do his MBA in Personnel Management & Industrial Relations from XLRI, Jamshedpur and also has a LLB degree from Delhi University.
Abhijit’s career spans two decades across diverse industries and multiple countries. He worked for companies like Eicher Goodearth, Shalimar Paints, Tata Steel and Mudra Communications and in 1997 he joined Colgate Palmolive in Mumbai. In 1999 he moved to a Regional role in the Asia Pacific Shared Services Organization for Colgate and was based out of Kuala Lumpur before moving on to a global role in New York at the Corporate Headquarters for Colgate-Palmolive. Abhijit Bhaduri has joined FritoLay - the Snacks division of Pepsico International as head of Human Resources for the BU. Abhijit brings with him varied experiences across industries, locations and geographies and has worked with diverse cultures and has led multiple global projects with cross-functional teams.
He has also recently authored “Mediocre But Arrogant”, a fictional novel about life in a Business School in Jamshedpur. The book has been on several bestseller lists in India and US and finds mention in the online encyclopedia as an example of a contemporary Indian fiction writer. He has been a popular radio voice in India and abroad and hosted a popular radio show in US on Indian movies and film music.
Abhijit is married to Nandini and has a daughter Eshna and son Abhishek.
do not know why I landed in this corporate jungle. Why I chose to do Human Resources Development. Why I did not decide to stop playing a game which I neither understood nor had any desire to learn. In fact, I did not even start off being in Human Resources.When I joined MIJ (Management Institute of Jamshedpur, Bihar) in the summer of 1982, the course I had enrolled for was actually called Industrial Relations and Social Welfare. At that time, there were only Welfare Officers. But that term really sucked. So some smart cookie who thought like Rascal Rusty, must have decided to “Tweak the formula, change the packaging and make a new commercial with a cute babe in a skimpier bikini,” as the Marketing guys did with all their soaps and toothpaste brands every year, and called it a relaunch. It was a new and improved version of the Personnel Management & Industrial Relations course (which sounded so Neanderthal) and called Human Resources instead. And those who graduated from the institute were re-christened “HR professionals” instead of Personnel Managers.
After struggling through two years in MIJ I was let loose on the Corporate Sector. In course of time, I was anointed head honcho of HR of a reputed firm. All because of the stamp that MIJ put on me. Rather, because as they say in management jargon, I bore the MIJ “brand.” It was indeed all about Brands. How else would you explain the transformation of scores of university graduates into much sought after brands in the corporate bazaar? Given the number of applicants every year, it seemed as if the branding machine at MIJ worked overtime!
In 1982, all the buildings of MIJ were rather, umm ... utilitarian, and therefore did not have that certain style that is necessary to be taken seriously by the world at large. The way you dress creates the first impression on those who hold the keys to all the goodies in life. Rascal Rusty would advise everyone to “always look the part.” MIJ certainly did not look like it met people’s expectations of what a major Business School should look like. Nor did it have the necessary spark that makes a major brand.
The Boys Hostel in the neighbouring block reminded me of the army barracks built to keep everyone alert and on their toes.
“If you do not feel comfortable and relaxed you will learn to be a fighter. Luxury will dull your desire to excel.”
That was what my father said every time I desired but was denied something that was even remotely classified as a luxury. MIJ operated on the same philosophy.
The Chapel in the Administrative Block was an integral part of MIJ. If you spoke to Father Hathaway, a Scottish priest and one of the original Magnificent Seven who built MIJ literally, brick by brick, this is what he would tell you:
“I came to India with six other priests, in 1945, with a common dream. Two years later, MIJ was started in a small room of the Hotel Bistupur in Bistupur market of Jamshedpur. Those early years were a challenge. Within three months of coming here, one of my colleagues died of malaria. But we were not disheartened. I am so happy we did not go back leaving this beautiful city. We knew a free country like India would have a great need for trained managers. In those days most industries like the Steel and Iron Company (SICO) were labour intensive. So there would always be a demand for Personnel Officers. The first batch of MIJ had only six students. Over the years, the foresight and hard work of the teachers and students has paid rich dividends and the present campus is testimony to the esteem in which the Corporate Sector holds MIJ. The Chapel was built by us when we started this institute. We needed to get God to sign up for this project of making MIJ India’s best institute for learning management! Theek bola?”
He used to lapse into his heavily accented Hindi or Bengali or Tamil or Oriya depending on who he was talking to.
Affectionately called Haathi he was one of the most popular figures in that region. He knew virtually everyone in Jamshedpur – from the CEO to the fruit vendor in Bistupur, and he addressed them all by name. Father Hathaway remembered every student who had passed through the portals of MIJ. How did he do it? None of us dared to hazard a guess. He was not only one of the best loved teachers, he was guide, architect and visionary all rolled into one.
In deference to the regard he was held in, MIJ-ites down the generations have had great respect for everything Scottish – especially Scotch. The girls in MIJ swore he looked like Gregory Peck. Haathi invariably brushed off the comparison with, “I must see a movie of this chap who claims to look like me …” At age sixty-five, Haathi rode a Royal Enfield motorcycle as if he were on a Grand Prix race track. Anyone who hitched a ride with him to Bistupur swore never to repeat the mistake. Haathi weaved through the traffic, chatting nonstop with the pillion rider even as he waved furiously at acquaintances and shouted greetings at friends as he careened along, much to the horror of his passenger. He still played basketball with us every evening and gave the students an inferiority complex with his accurate baskets.
Because of Father Hathaway’s charismatic personality, fund raising campaigns for MIJ always exceeded their target and he was able to finance his dreams of improving MIJ’s infrastructure. At every Alumni meet that I have attended over the years, the conversation would inevitably veer around to Haathi. Everyone professed only undiluted admiration and respect for him, including the students who had received lousy grades in his classes. Father Hathaway was a tough act to follow, for all his successors.
The original building of Hotel Bistupur, where MIJ first started off, now houses a popular Bar. That’s why, according to Boys’ Hostel folklore, every MIJ-ite is “bar-coded” and hence destined to be a confirmed boozer. “Win or lose, we must booze” was the unofficial motto especially when we played our football matches on Saturday evenings against the local Engineering college – and usually lost. MIJ’s official motto, “Enter to learn, go forth to serve” was modified to read, “Learn to enter; Go forth to serve” on the bathroom walls of the Boys’ Hostel. It reflected our point of view and desires more accurately than the official motto ever would.
Our batch of ’82 had eight girls and forty guys. This ratio made life look grim to us as each one of us did a quick mental calculation of the probability of success as we looked up the names of girls who would be our classmates for two years from the list of Juniors. Our Senior batch was worse off. They had only one girl in their batch who was the fantasy of forty-four depraved young men. To them, our batch with the presence of eight “babes” made a huge improvement to their Quality of Life Index. So we got no sympathy from them when we cribbed about the adverse ratio of boys to girls.
So were a lot of other things in life, I realized for almost the first time when we started applying for summer trainee assignments. I was very impressed when I heard the statement at a Pre Placement Talk (PPT in MIJ lingo), for the first time: “We offer a career and not a job.” All companies declared that they were looking for leadership qualities, motivation, dynamism and excellent communication skills. They all wanted someone who liked to work in a fast paced environment and loved challenge. When asked what the promotions and increments were based on, every company had the same stock response.
“Ours is a meritocracy. At the end of the day all that matters is who got us results and who didn’t.”
So when I attended an interview in our campus for a summer trainee assignment with a company that makes a very popular brand of cough syrups, I was determined to impress, and I was sure that honesty was still the best policy. Their Director, Personnel, asked me why I chose HR as my specialization in MIJ instead of Marketing since that was the glamorous option. I could have lied through my teeth and said something untruthful like:
“Right from my student days, Sir, I noticed that the one factor that makes or breaks a company is the quality of the people it has. Every organization can buy the same machines that its competitor has. Every product can be copied but what cannot be duplicated is the collective set of skills that its employees possess. It is the business of the Personnel department to ensure that every employee uses his potential skills for the benefit of the organization and help it transform itself from being ordinary to exceptional ...” etc.
But stupid me, I decided to tell the truth.
“I do not know Sir. Getting into MIJ and this course on Personnel Management was all just one big act of serendipity.” I did not get selected for the job. The bonehead who was interviewing me didn’t care to know the Truth. All that he had said at the PPT, about looking for a person who would take over from him in five years flat, must have been just that – all talk.
I was upset and angry. Was I not selected because I had been honest in my responses? Must be. It was so unfair! I decided that I would boycott that brand of cough syrup for the next two months even if I sounded like a foghorn. I also went around telling people to avoid that particular brand because it contained harmful drugs. My very own smear campaign against the mighty corporation. It was my way of saying, “That’s what you get when you fool around with a loyal customer … even if he wants to apply for a job.”
Noticing my rather peevish behaviour, my friend Rusty said to me one day, “Abbey, who on earth asked you to use that word ‘serendipity’ in an interview? And what does it mean anyway?”
“Serendipity is the trick of making fortunate discoveries accidentally,” I replied innocently.
“I know what serendipity means, Abbey. But I bet the guy who was interviewing you didn’t. That is why he didn’t select you. Nobody likes a smart aleck in the workplace. They make difficult subordinates who are likely to overshadow and expose the ignorance of their bosses. So no manager will ever employ anyone smarter than himself, assuming, of course, that you are smarter than him.”
I ignored the sarcasm. “But Rusty, this guy declared in the PPT that he was looking for a subordinate who could take over from him in five years so that he could retire and spend time doing social work. He said he was looking for somebody who would be better than him in all respects.”
“You are such an ass, Abbey, you will believe anything. The PPT is a courting process when you want to entice the applicants. So it cannot be the time for honesty. Both parties, Companies and students, garnish the truth. Only after the appointment letter is received and accepted, will the employers reveal their true colours. By that time it’s too late. You understand? What that fellow was trying to do is get enough suckers to apply for the job so that he could take back the stack of Resumes and show his boss what a great job he had done at building the Company’s brand in MIJ. Then he will select the dumbest not the smartest candidate as his assistant. So that by sheer contrast he will appear a genius and indispensable to the company. Then he will continue to drop hints to his own boss about taking early retirement and also mention in the same breath how fresh and inexperienced the new recruit is. That will make his bosses paranoid about losing an experienced hand. They will give him a big raise and a generous bonus and then request him to delay his retirement plans for just a few months more till they manage to train that MBA they hired from campus.”
“But how do you know all this Rusty?” I interrupted. After all he too was a fresher like me.
“Forget it da, I’ll tell you some other time.”
How he knew did not matter. What did was that talking to him had lessened my embarrassment at not getting selected. I was easily convinced that it was because I was smarter than my potential boss. It was amazing, the number of guys I was smarter than!
It was not difficult to believe Rustom Topiwalla, Rusty for short. Though he was a bit of a pompous ass, it was generally agreed that he was the most Corporate-savvy person in our class. People called him “Rascal Rusty” behind his back, I didn’t know why. No one knew anything about him. He was an enigma. A loner, he generally avoided the Hostel crowd, and never joined us when we went out to eat Chinese at Franks. He was always dressed in a pair of jeans and a black shirt. I secretly admired his 3C appearance, his “Cool, Calm & Collected” manner.
Rusty was a teetotaller and made it sound like a virtue. When he was in his room he usually sucked on a pipe. There was rarely any tobacco in it because I do not remember seeing any smoke coming from it. He just liked to hold it as he scanned through business magazines looking scholarly and professional. He hardly ever spoke except to make very profound sounding statements every now and then. Unlike most of us in the Junior batch, Rusty spent much time in the Library, reading Annual Reports of Companies and The Economic Times. Then he would impress us by quoting from them. His knowledge of the world of management and of how corporations worked made even the Seniors ask him for advice, for a fee of course.
We found out that Rusty had a Bachelors degree from Loyola College in Madras. He had started his own company that marketed “education for busy executives”, and had already been a CEO – even if it was of his own start-up. He had been at the pinnacle of power for five years before succumbing to his “thirst for knowledge” and joined MIJ unlike most of us who were fresh off the Bachelors Degree assembly line. Rusty invariably came up with solutions to every problem and short cuts for every task. He had a fair number of acolytes who turned to him in a crisis. He helped anyone who asked him to, but extracted his pound of flesh from them.
Once Rusty sold me a list of references for the price of his haircut. Another time he offered to help me write out a term paper for Haathi in exchange for a month’s subscription to The Hindu. Paying for that newspaper subscription meant giving up smoking for a week.
“Practical experience, that’s what matters in life. Most of our Seniors only know what Kotler has said about Marketing. They have no clue how that translates to designing a Marketing Plan for the district of Shimoga. Whereas I know what works in the marketplace. Kotler is bound to agree with me.”
“Who is Kotler? How does he know about Shimoga?” Even I didn’t know who that was.
“The guru of marketing, Abbey,” Rusty said, barely able not to sound patronising. I flushed. But he went on, “Philip Kotler’s Marketing Management: Analysis, Planning, Implementation and Control is the most widely used marketing text book in B-schools worldwide. The guy has a Ph D from MIT in Economics, did post-doctoral work in Mathematics at Harvard, and in Behavioural Science at the University of Chicago.”
“Do you know him?”
“We are not best friends or anything like that. But yes our ideas have frequently struck a common chord. I have spoken about decision making and planning models in Marketing. As in life, in Marketing too, planning is everything.” “But yaar, in my experience, serendipity rather than careful planning has brought me here, to MIJ.”
I looked the question paper. Quantitative Techniques ie QT pronounced as ‘cutie’ was tough subject for all – even the engineers. Not clearing that would mean curtains for life. I stared at the crazy Prof’s handiwork and read with disbelief:
You walk into a watch shop and notice that most clocks show a time somewhere in the range of 5:50 to 6:00pm. Which statistical measure ie Mean, Median or Mode will give you the best estimate of the actual time. Why? And why would the other two measures be unsuitable?
What? My forehead creased in a hundred furrows.
Who came up with this shit? What was this man’s intention? What knowledge of QT will he measure by this absurd question? Who cares to use Statistics when you are in a watch shop? You simply buy the bloody watch and get the fuck out. And why would you care if different clocks in the shop showed different times.
I told myself that I would come back to this later, after I had completed the other questions. Wouldn’t you just calculate the mean of all the different times and come to the conclusion … wait … it must be the Median … oh I know … no ... OK MOVE TO THE NEXT QUESTION…
I moved to the next question. And the next. They were no better. The class had suddenly gone quiet.
Chatto announced the next morning in his strongly accented squeaky tone, “The parson who scored the least in my queez is Joyonto Ganguly. He scored 0.86 followed closely by Horpal Singh who got 1.38.”
Jayant Ganguly alias “Joy” and Harpal Singh alias “Hairy” led the funereal march. Only Mozart’s Requiem was missing to provide the soundtrack for this mourning. I got 2.73.
2.73 out of 10? What a nut case, giving marks in decimals. Couldn’t you have rounded them off, you weirdo?
The top of the heap was Sethu. He got 9.8. We were all awestruck by the fact that Sethu had got a near perfect score – 9.8 out of ten was great. We remained impressed by Sethu’s performance in the quiz until Chatto announced that the marks were out of 100.
Every MIJ nickname had a reason and story whether one knew it or not. These names became such common currency that one sometimes had to stop and think what the person’s real name was. There were several categories of pet names. The simplest ones were truncated versions of the original. Hence, David Chemmanoor became Chumma. Viswaranjan was Vishy. Alpana was Alps (guess why). Hathaway became Haathi.
When there were five Venkateswarans floating around between the Senior and Junior batches, the shortened version of the name had a prefix attached to it. So instead of demanding impatiently, “Which fucking Venkat are you talking about?” we referred to them as – Junior Venky Senior Venky, Mess Venky who was our Mess Secretary and Curly Venky because of his frizzy hairstyle. Only one guy had the honour of being addressed as plain and simple Venky.
I was picking up the lingo thanks to the coaching I received from a Senior, in MIJ – Posh. His name was Tapas Misra. Chatto kept on pronouncing it as Taposh Miss-row. Taposh was soon referred to as Posh in true MIJ tradition. I had been a willing customer for his old text books. He sold them to me at half the price. Once he got the money, he even threw in a bonus. He gave me a copy of the November 1979 issue of Penthouse and a bunch of Term Papers written by MIJ-ites over the years in different subjects.
“What would I want to do with this shit?” I asked Posh.
“The Penthouse is worth its weight in gold.”
“I know. I was referring to the Term Papers.”
“I got them from someone who was here five years back. You know what that means? You can use these as handy references especially when Beez gives you Term Papers to write. Just mix and match the stuff, change the sequence of the paragraphs but always add your own pictures and illustrations. Beez hates people cogging pictures. I don’t think he reads the shit we write anyway. I am a great believer in recycling knowledge.”
Dadu’s Dhaba was the venue of our drinking binges on weekends since drinking liquor was prohibited in our Hostel. He loved the boozing sessions and our WC-DMR (Pronounced WC-Dimmer and stood for Who Can Drink Most Rum) contests but hated our collective efforts at singing that happened during each such event. On these occasions, we would pool our resources and buy a few bottles of Old Monk Rum and pour it into a large drum that was permanently kept at Dadu’s. Dadu would be given the honour of declaring the bacchanalia open. He would collect his share of three mugs of rum all at once and then gulp them down in large eager swigs. Mug after plastic mug (a precautionary measure to prevent injuries from broken glasses!) would then be dipped into the drum and emptied thirstily. This would go on until the elbows became immobilized or the liquor ran out.
These booze sessions usually ended up with a bonfire and all of us, softened up by all that liquor, would sing our favourite Dylan songs. Bob Dylan was our hero. He wrote and said all what we wanted to. After the initial spell of drunken choral singing, we would hand over the stage to Arunesh for some professional grade music. That was the moment he loved and gloated over. If you wanted him to sing a specific song, you had to address him as Arunesh – never Ana or Annie and ask for it in a suitably reverential tone.
Everybody, without exception, agreed that Arunesh played the guitar as well as Dylan. There was a certain magic in those starlit nights as the moonlight shone on his black Yamaha acoustic guitar. He caressed each note off the nylon strings and shiny frets. He once wrote down the lyrics of “Blowing in the Wind” for us on the blackboard. We all memorized the words and thereafter we sang it like it was our own anthem.
“How many roads must a man walk down before you can call him a man?”
It was not sung like a drunken sailor’s song, but like a man’s plea for an answer. There was something in that song that made me pine for Delhi one helluva fucking lot more than what I was capable of handling emotionally. All that rum inside me did not help either. For some strange reason it reminded me of Priya and I missed her. I felt sorry for all the times I had hurt her with my stupid comments. Did that mean I loved her?NEVER!! She is not my kind. You know that, don’t you. I would stop talking to myself and would quickly get over the ache and concentrate on the rum and the music. Arunesh did not only depend on Dylan for songs. He was equally at home singing Kishore Kumar numbers complete with yodelling and all. We all thought he sang Simon and Garfunkel, Beatles and Cat Stevens just as well. Besides this sort of mainstream music, there were Rugby songs that were especially requested for during our all-male singing sessions. Our eternal favourite was Diana’s Song: Diana, Diana show me your legsDiana, Diana show me your legsDiana, Diana show me your legsA foot above your knee.Rich girl rides a limousinePoor girl rides a truckThe only ride that Diana getsIs when she is having a F…A few more glasses of rum and he would egg us on to greater heights, “Who wants to sing the German Soldiers’ song with me? It goes something like this:The German soldiers went to hell Parlez-vousThe German soldiers went to hell Parlez-vousThe German soldiers went to hell They screwed the Devil’s wife as well, Inky pinky parlez-vous.
Once Chumma had gotten technical, “Machan there’s a technical praablem in this saang. If they say parlez-vous, it hassz to be French soldiers, da and not German. I did French for eight months at the Alliance Française.”
A yell from the crowd followed by a volley of abuse that can only be politely summarized as, “Who cares?” but the exact words that were used … You don’t want to know, da.
This and several other songs had been handed down through generations of MIJ-ites. Often, the singing continued till the soft rays of the moonlight gave way to the orange hues in the eastern sky. Some of us would wake up to the sight of Gur going for his daily run while others would quickly get back to the Hostel, avoiding eye contact with Haathi who would be reading his Bible as he walked briskly along the cobbled pathway that led to the Boys’ Hostel.
Watching the sunset along the banks of Subarnarekha was a universal favourite. The sight would fill us up with wonder and amazement at the spectacle nature could paint for us. Sometimes the colours would be so vibrant that it would look unreal. If Arunesh joined in with his guitar and sang the soulful, “Kahin door jab din dhal jaye…” or “Woh shaam kuchh ajeeb thhii…” we would sit there mesmerized. The only challenge was to prevent some of the others, especially Chumma, from joining in and ruining the moment. Very often Chumma would get into an emotional knot then invariably Joy would discreetly remind him about a pending assignment. That would keep him silent and withdrawn until we returned to the hostel.
I thought Business Policy was all about making sense of oxymorons. Rusty’s favourite example of this figure of speech had to be “Military Intelligence” or maybe “Civil Engineer.”
“Ever seen one?” Rusty would ask as he cackled insanely.
As far as I was concerned, even “Business Policy” or “Strategic Planning” were oxymorons.
Rusty did not show the slightest interest in Alp’s assets. Instead he passed me a book called Lateral Thinking: Creativity Step by Step, by someone called Edward de Bono.
“The consultant was right, you know,” he said to me. “Linear thinking can produce limited results when the problem is undefined. I had once read about a great example of lateral thinking. You want to know what it was.”
Of course I did. Would save me the bother of reading it for myself. When you are used to being spoon-fed as we are in our education system, predigested mush is always welcome!
Rusty explained, “A hotel had a major problem. The guests constantly complained that the hotel lifts were too slow and they had to wait endlessly to be carried across floors. What would you suggest, Abbey, if they had called you in to solve this problem?”
“That’s a no-brainer. The speed of the lifts would have to be adjusted so that the frigging lifts move faster. The lift mechanic could have told them that,” I replied glibly.
“Now that is a classic example of linear thinking. You would never cut it as a consultant, Abbey. Listen to this. The consultant who was brought in suggested something truly amazing. He got the hotel to fix massive mirrors in the waiting area near the lifts. Within no time the complaints stopped. Why?”
I pondered over it for a moment. “Why would you want to fix mirrors near the lift? Some kind of optical illusion?”
“Hmmm … yes and no. But mainly no, da. The mirrors gave the hotel guests something to do while waiting for the lifts.”
“Yeah, I know that one. The mirrors let them make last minute surveys – check if hair was in place, and fly zipped up before stepping into the lift. Since they were occupied, they did not notice how slow the lifts were … Hmmm … Now it figures. That’s what Pari meant when he said we should look for the real problem and not the symptoms.” I suddenly felt enlightened.
The train was moving past the over bridge. I could see the familiar outline of the Steel factory. The Dalma range of mountains. I was leaving behind a slew of memories of my two years in MIJ that had changed my life. I thought of Haathi and remembered that I had his letter in my shirt pocket. What could he have written? I opened the letter and read it. It was short note that was written in Haathi’s unmistakable neat handwriting, each word carefully formed.
The Tatanagar Express was on its way to Delhi. Was it the crimson smoke from the chimneys of the Steel Plant that blurred my vision of the city skyline? Or was it the gathering tear …

Sunday, March 19, 2006

The Deccan Herald does it again

The Deccan Herald's list of Bestsellers dated 5th March 2006 features once again Mediocre But Arrogant as a Bestseller - but under the Non Fiction category ... along with other pieces of "non fiction" such as

The Inscrutable Americans; Anurag Mathur, Rs 95
The Wise and Otherwise; Sudha Murty, Rs 150
The Chronicles of Narnia; C S Lewis, Rs 745
The Alchemist; Paulo Coelho, Rs 195
Mediocre but Arrogant; Abhijit Bhaduri, Rs 195

But what is worrying is the list that is listed under their category of Fiction!!

The Google Story; David A Vise, Rs 595
A Short History of Nearly Everything, Bill Brysan, Rs 350
48 Laws of Power; Robert Greene, Rs 125
Corporate Capers; Dinesh Kumar, Rs 295
10-Days MBA; Steven Silbiger, Rs 295

Maybe there's a message in that!!

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Monday Morning Musings

The Economic Times - February 20, 2006

Monday mornings are what that R K Narayan schoolboy character Swami used to dread most. The first day of the week can be daunting not just for schoolchildren. In offices throughout the world, the cry goes out on the need to meet targets and those in the firing line cannot even duck. However, for the young at heart and romantically inclined Monday morning offers the opportunity to pick up the threads after the weekend break.

And so college kids set out bright and early with a song in their hearts if not on their lips. Even roadside Romeos perk up at the thought that the old campus or office looks attractive even on the first day of a studious or working week. And it’s not just in Hindi or vernacular movies that college classes are full of lectures interspersed with sidelong glances. In real life, those taking down copious class notes could also be exchanging messages , either on paper or the silent SMS mode. A recent novel, titled Mediocre But Arrogant on the making of an Indian MBA, has a lass scribbling a message to a lad during an OB (Organisational Behaviour) class that “Go on like this and you’ll get a D.” To which the response is “I’d rather have an F from you.”

In the good old filmi days, of course, only Shakti Kapoor playing the campus villain (you know the one called Vicky who drives a rash Cadillac and whose industrialist father is the chairman of the board of governors ) would say such outrageous things to the studious heroine Seeta played by Hema Malini and be promptly beaten up by the poor student Veeru (poor not in terms of academic grades but family income) played by Dharmendra . That Bollywood stereotype of the poor but brilliant student may even have been inspired by the Chinese philosopher Confucius who observed in the 6th century BC that “the scholar who cherishes the love of comfort is not fit to be deemed a scholar.” ...

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Matrimonial Testimonial

Desimatch is a magazine aimed at getting young men and women to tie the knot (well eventually). Here's what they had to say,-2005/community.html

‘Mediocre But Arrogant’ is Abhijit Bhaduri’s first work of fiction in English. The novel’s blog at has some hilarious cartoons and also audio excerpts where you can hear the author read out parts from the novel. The book is being launched in Calcutta on 3rd August followed by a launch in Jamshedpur, Mumbai and Delhi. Abhijit will then go on to Kuala Lumpur and Singapore before coming back to US for his book launch.A man of many talents, Abhijit has more than a thousand cartoons and illustrations for magazines like Target, newspapers like Hindustan Times and three books on Management. He has also been a seasoned broadcaster having been a newsreader with All India Radio and hosting youth programs on Television. Currently, he hosts a show on Hindi movies and music on EBC the 24x7 desi radio channel in US. He performs and directed plays in the US, Malaysia and India. Abhijit is a part of the Corporate Human Resources team at the global Headquarters of Colgate Palmolive in New York. He has also won the coveted Best Young Manager award at the National Competition for Young Managers organized by All India Management Association.

Desi Match talks to Abhijit on his book and future projects:

Q. What inspired the storyline of your book ‘Mediocre But Arrogant’?
A. Mediocre But Arrogant is story about love and life in a Business School. It is a story about college life, about good times with friends, about falling in love and about growing up. The protagonist Abbey is an unambitious and directionless person who lands up in the highly competitive and fictitious Management Institute of Jamshedpur. The story is about how the two years there change him and his relationships. The story is not autobiographical. The characters are fictional. But they are real and will prompt every reader to say, “I knew someone EXACTLY like this character.”

Q. Who are these mediocre brains the book is targeted at and if arrogance is infact a shield to hide their mediocrity?
A. According to the protagonist Abbey, the term MBA stands for Mediocre But Arrogant. It refers to the power that an MBA wields in today’s world that makes some people arrogant. Anyone who has been to college or has ever lived in a hostel will instantly identify with the characters and the humor in this novel that has been praised by novelists like Shobhaa De, Professors of Management like Dr Madhukar Shukla of XLRI and Mr Tarun Sheth - the management guru.

Q. Is there a message you are trying to give out through your book?
A. The message is that education is all about discovering that each one of us has the power to make a difference in the world.

Q. What are your future projects?
A. This novel is the first of a trilogy. While the first novel finishes with Abbey becoming an MBA, the second novel follows him into the corporate sector and the third novel sees Abbey realizing his dreams. There is already media interest to turn this novel into a movie and a TV serial. There are exciting plans for merchandizing. That along with a full time job as a senior HR executive in a Fortune 500 company and my passion for radio and theater are enough for me to work 25 hours a day.