Friday, March 23, 2007

David Rasquinha's Review of Mediocre But Arrogant on

David Rasquinha is an avid reader and reviewer of books. Starting off with his first review dated 14 Dec 1999 when he wrote about A Clash of Kings by George RR Martin, since then has written 118 book reviews and 1463 votes who find his reviews useful.

About him - as disclosed on the Amazon profile:

"I am from India, temporarily based in the USA. A banker by profession, I am fond of classical music and reading, amateur astronomy. I suppose my grounding in hard nosed economics and banking made me gravitate to science fiction and fantasy. I love reading about different worlds and more importantly, different world-views, seeing how characters interact. To me the most fascinating part of sci-fi is not the bells and whistles of technology but rather the effects of this technological change on society and human psychology."

Here is his take on M-B-A. Full disclosure: David Rasquinha and I were batchmates at XLRI, Jamshedpur, India. Over to you David.

Mediocre But Arrogant
by Abhijit Bhaduri
Edition: Hardcover
Availability: Currently unavailable

A coming of age book - with a difference, February 14, 2007

I loved this book at first browse! Let me admit at the beginning that I am not a disinterested reader. As a contemporary of Abhijit at XLRI, the real-life MIJ, "Mediocre But Arrogant" transported me back to 1982-84. I knew Abhijit then and always admired (with more than a touch of envy) his range of interests and his terrific interpersonal skills - he always seemed so easy in his skin. So it is likely that I am biased in favour of this book. Abhijit proclaims at the outset that the story is not autobiographical and that his protagonist Abbey is not Abhijit.

Without disputing that, several of the characters in the book, including some composite characters, the settings, many of the incidents and events he describes are immediately recognisable to his classmates. For students of the XL Classes of 1982, 1983 and 1984, this book will bring back many nostalgic memories and some rueful smiles as well. Having said that, this book lays claim to a far wider audience for it is many ways a "coming of age" novel. Bear in mind that the time period of this novel is the early 1980s: a time when India still slumbered, the software boom was still years distant and nobody had heard of the term BRICs.

Abhijit brilliantly conveys the tensions weighing on a young man in that time. The allure of idealistic college discussions over tea or coffee, the quest for an educational degree that would open the portals of the employment market and most of all the pressures, subtle and crude alike, to "grow up, get a good job and settle down". Followed by the tension filled competition to get admission into a business / technology school and "get placed".

This will strike an immediate chord with any Indian (and I daresay, international) student. At the real-life MIJ, as Abhijit says himself, we were blessed with excellent and dedicated professors and an incredible cross-section of students from the length and breadth of India. We learned as much from our interactions with each other, as from our classroom sessions. Abhijit has done a wonderful job of picking key incidents, characters and events which he weaves together into a story that is heartwarming, inspiring and bittersweet all at the same time. The gift for language and communication he so well displayed then, has well served him in this novel as well. My only grouse, and it is a minor one, is that his use of flashbacks to illustrate his points can be occasionally jerky and unduly discontinuous. A coming of age book that is well worth a read, for those coming of age now, and for those who did so a while ago, alike! I hope to read a sequel sometime!

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Meet Tuhin Sinha - author of That Thing Called Love

I was in Mumbai last month to attend Kitabfest. The literary festival had loads of authors - probably more authors than publishers, socialites, communicators, media and celebrities. And some readings and some networking - some real desperate networkers who were there just collecting visiting cards without even checking who that card belonged to. Got to admire that for speed of acquisition. There were some who were handing over their visiting cards like people distribute handbills at a railway station.

With Indian authors becoming more visible it was not long before I bumped into one of them. We got talking about his work, hobbies and the experience of getting published. Tuhin is also seeking to act in Bollywood. But mainly it was about his book called THAT THING CALLED LOVE Just finished reading it

AB: Hey I just finished reading your book. Liked the concept of the story and the way you have written it. Almost like a film script. We both share a love for Jampot. You studied there right?

Tuhin: I studied at Loyola School, Jamshedpur.

AB: And stopped at that?

Tuhin: No, then went to Hindu College, Delhi and National Institute of Advertising, New Delhi.

AB: And now you are a scriptwriter too. You do that for a living? I mean no one (except JK Rowling and a few others) survive on the royalties of their book :)

Tuhin: I am a scriptwriter based in Mumbai. A tele-film called Phir Se, that won me the RAPA award for the Best Tele-film, 2005. That encouraged me to co-script Pyar Ki Kashti Mein a show that was shot exclusively on a cruise.

AB: From Telefilms to movies. Is that the plan?

Tuhin: I am working on two movie scripts for directors, Onir and Subhash Sehgal respectively.

AB: Tell me about your book That Thing Called Love. I love the cover photo.
Tuhin: It's a story about the dark side of relationships, set in one Mumbai Monsoon. Another way to put it would be that the book delves into the complexities in contemporary urban relationships.

AB: How do you describe your writing style? Was it easier writing fiction having written screenplays?

Tuhin: Well, I've been a scriptwriter for the last 5 years. So the book I can say was a logical extension/ diversification for me. More honestly, I wanted to break out of the anonymity of being a TV scriptwriter and since I had a story which I felt, had good commercial worth for a novel, I went ahead with it.

AB: How did you go about finding a publisher?

Tuhin: Well, Rupa and Penguin were the first publishers whom I approached. I approached them with just two sample chapters but they didn't seem interested. Thereafter, I approached almost all known publishers whose books I could find at leading bookstores. I would find out their numbers from the 'just dial' service and call them up. I believe in destiny and when something is destined to happen, it does happen. I mailed my entire manuscript to Srishti on the evening of 2 nd July last year and by morning next day I was told they were going ahead with the novel.

AB: What is the role of the author in the book becoming a commercial success?

Tuhin: The author has a huge role to play. That's because the book like any other product or brand has to have a specific positioning. Commercial success depends a lot upon attractive packaging. And at least in the Indian context, the onus for the marketing exercise rests almost entirely upon the author. Moreover the profile of an author has changed a great deal of late. Nowadays, authors are a lot more interactive. There is a definite effort on their part to reach out and interact with their readers. This, no doubt, tends to involve readers a lot more. It's also a good trend because I'm sure it inspires newer people to take to writing.

AB: What should one look for in a publisher?

Tuhin: A lot of things: a) compatibility in terms of creative sensibility b) editing and production standards as established by the publisher's previous books c) distribution network or distribution tie-ups of the publisher d) marketing capabilities. Having listed these, let me be frank enough to add that a first timer is not in a position to choose. The sheer incentive to become published author would make you go for whichever publisher is willing to accept your work.

AB: What does a publisher look for in a manuscript?Tuhin: I don't think I would be the right person to answer this question. From whatever little my experience has been, I think Indian publishers are of two kinds. One who would go solely by content; And the other, who rely entirely upon PR agencies doing the job for them. There again, the cost of PR is never borne by the publisher. AB: The role of the editor in the making of a book

Tuhin: The editor has a pivotal role to play. Many publishers, unfortunately, go only for copy editing. However, in my view, it's equally important for the editor to have a good story sense. Content editing only improves quality manifold.

AB: If your book was not a commercial success would you still continue writing?

Tuhin: Yes.