Friday, August 17, 2012

The Dork Lord Strikes Again

If you have read Dork and enjoyed it, pause. If you feel like picking up Dork and reading it again, and do not want to read it because it reminds you of lemon rice served in a Udupi hotel next door, here is a solution: You could pick up the sequel God Save the Dork. However, the question is how much is enough? Do you need more of deadpan Pink Panther series of a bumbling consultant constantly speaking to his diary? If the answer is yes, then again pick this book up. If not, just chill and read something more serious and morbid, Possibly Michael Lewis and his analysis of the greedy bankers.

We know that the well-known problem of successful and good first book is that there is a danger of a second book and subsequent books. How many writers can resist the temptation to capitalize [and possibly monetize] their glory into more? We only have one Harper Lee in this world who stopped at one Pulitzer prize for her novel, without getting ambitious about a Nobel. Sidin Vadukut is unfortunately made of sterner stuff. He ad-ventures into a sequel to tell us about the further ventures of Robert ‘Einsteen’ Verghese.

In the olden days of forex control [even on current account] and when credit cards were valid only in India and Nepal, it was a fancy thing to shoot vernacular movies in exotic locations like Singapore and show some sky-scrapers. That was attraction enough for us to visit the movie hall. Sidin is possibly not that old. No, a person who claims to have studied accounting in my class in the early part of last decade, could possibly not be my contemporary. Nevertheless, in this rendering of Dork, he trasnports us to London just for the heck and takes us through all the museums, including Madam Tussads where he installs an imaginary Mohanlal wax statue, with Dhoti. While there is some merit internationalizing the very Malayalee/Indian experience this is very much an Indian book with and Indian sensitivity of humor and therefore see no merit apart from London being a nice place holder, that holds Sidin at this time. He also acknowledges the fact and vows to love the city as long as his visa is valid.

This book continues the same spirit of the first book, poking at the inane advise offered by consultants with profound sounding jargon. Robin’s presentation to a set of interns for instance has a series which talks about strategy – starting with Strategy and You, Strategy From the Heart and leading all the way up to Strategy is more than Just Jargon: Brainstorming for a Deliverable-Critical Priority Framework”. Sidin is of course brilliant in weaving the story, and also leaving bits and pieces of unsaid to be picked up later – something that is needed to hold a long narrative together. Like the bits and pieces of stuff that Robin packs into the hair dryer out of his frustration, which is to be later operated by his girl friend Gouri on a surprise visit. He is also great at piecing together situational humor and being politically incorrect by pulling in Malayalees, Chinese, Mohanlal [a sub-set of Malayalees but not treated as such] and Chiranjeevi the telugu superstar through Sugandh the IT professional. He does not stop pulling punches at his favourite bank –“Gouri called again. And this time I picked up [Otherwise she will keep calling. Sometimes she is like HDFC Bank Credit Card Department]”

The problem with this rendering is that Sidin has become consistent and predictable. This may be good for quarterly corporate results; but possibly a bad thing for humour. By the time you read the book you know for sure that everytime there is a public speaking Robert will forget to clip off his collar mike and head for the toilet, you know that every few pages his protagonist will have an upset that is to do with gastronomics leading to foulness all around, and everytime his appears to be doing well, he will goof on a small scale, and every time he goofs up with his eyes and ears wide open, he is saved by some stroke of luck. Sidin is almost like an evangelist who encourages us to believe in god. Oh god!

Throughout the book Robin keeps noting down sick jokes, which even he thinks are not worth rendering. Sample this one:
Q: Why did Keanu Reeves see stars and cows and dogs all around him?
A: Because he was stuck in the BCG Matrix!

Clearly the trick does not seem to be working any longer. Infact I could put a counter to Sidin:
Q: What is common between Sidin Vadukut and Rujuta Diwekar?
A: Both of them write sequels which appear novel; say, almost the same things as the first; and are dedicated to the same people who got the prequels. It is time that Sidin found more friends and better books that he could dedicate to.

God Save the Dork
Sidin Vadukut
pp.242. Price Rs.199.

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