I enjoy reading Indian authors and try to promote them whenever I can. This is my latest Indian read, written in the endearing style of Indian English. Indians have truly made the language their own and have come up with a version of English which you'll never hear the Queen speak - but I love it all the same.
I used to go around trying to correct the English of the people in my Indian environment, but when I came to understand that in fact 'Indian English' is a language all by itself, I gave up that annoying habit. The rather curious title of this novel, the core message really, simply means that an MBA degree is not just about getting glory, a huge pay packet and dressing up in a business suit. But I suppose that’s obvious, really.
This is the story of Revant, a young man from Hyderabad who enters a college in Mumbai to study for his Masters in Business Administration (MBA). As soon as you get into reading this book, you start thinking that Revant is the author himself. But author voice is a peculiar thing. A reader really should not get into the habit of associating the author with the character through whose eyes the story is being told. But as the author has a heck of a lot in common with Revant, one gets the impression that this is really a thinly disguised fiction, an actual autobiography.
The author's voice is honest, frank and humble. As Revant progresses through his MBA year, having taken the one year option, he describes the courses in detail, making the reader feel that she too is participating in the course. There are lectures on spiritual philosophy, given by a swami from an ashram in Gujarat. ( I remember reading in the local newspapers here in Lucknow that a French student once came for a student exchange programme to Lucknow and was ecstatic at the fact that she heard a lecture on how the wisdom of Lord Shiva, a Hindu god, could be applied to management. You would never hear the words of Jesus Christ being quoted in a management lecture in Europe, she gushed. Strange. I'm not an MBA, nor anything close, but I do remember some twenty years ago, back in Ireland, attending an EU funded course at work (I worked in a government agency for empowerment of a certain minority) on leadership skills and the course had lots of Biblical wisdom in it, including quotes from Jesus Christ and references to His leadership skills. I suppose it depends on which college you attend. No doubt that scriptures, with their timeless wisdom, contain eternal truths which can be applied to many situations. I also noticed a lot of reference to something called SWOT analysis (making lists of strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) in solving various management problems. The main character takes the reader along on a trip to an NGO (non government organization - they're called voluntary groups back in Ireland, to the best of my knowledge). The NGO visit is an eye opener, as the main character learns that villagers who are given proper training and practical education can build prosperous villages.
At one point, Revant actually starts wondering if the MBA degree isn't really a waste of time. That's when the book gets really interesting.
And as in all good stories, in the course of time, our hero falls in love. But if you think there are going to be hot shenanigans in the hostel, you couldn't be more wrong. Our Revant survives on giving longing, wistful looks across the campus at his beloved, as he struggles to complete his assignments and, yes, improve his network skills. Revant's parents choose a bride for him, but our hero, after giving his folks an open hearing, informs them that neither he, nor the girl, are suitable for each other. Which I can't help admiring. I was beginning to despair of Indian men, who, it appears to me, seem to have an unhealthy reliance on their mothers when it comes to thinking for themselves in personal matters, especially in matters relating to choosing a marriage partner.
This is a really worthwhile read for anyone who wants to learn more about modern Indian life, or even anyone who wants to study for an MBA qualification in India. There is a lot of interesting information and wisdom. However, it reads more like a memoir than a fiction novel. In a novel you're waiting for a twist somewhere, a surprise to jerk you out of your complacency. That's not really likely to happen in a memoir. But I was pleased about this. There is a little surprise twist towards the end, but I won't spoil that surprise for any prospective readers.
No, I wouldn't say that this book is everyone's cup of chai. But then, what book is? I'll go as far as to say that if you take it for what it is - an insider's view of an MBA course - you'll enjoy it for sure. I'd like to add that if Revant is typical of Indian MBA graduates today, then the future of the country is in good hands.
I received a copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.