Friday, November 11, 2005

Three Books on Campus Life

First, it was Snapshots from Hell by Robinson - a book that told us how life was at a business school. It was a great book for anybody interested in the life at a B School. Most people who went to a B School could identify with it, irrespective of whether it was an American B School or elsewhere. The usual stuff about having to learn diverse subjects in a short span of two years and the travails associated with it. Having been a presidential speech writer, Robinson had the natural flair to narrate the experiences in an interesting way. What added to the richness of the book was that he belonged to the minority community within a B-School - people who are somewhat numerically challenged - whom he termed as "Poets". For a long time, this book reigned as a book that would be discussed amongst B School aspirants and students (not to mention faculty).

Recently two books have come out about campus life - Five Point Someone by Chetan Bhagat which made to the bestseller list in India. This is set in IIT Delhi - not exactly a B School, but a school which amongst other things is a single largest supplier of students to B Schools. The added dimension of Bhagat's book was that the author also happened to be a graduate of a B School. However, while the book is racy and might interest many people, it goes in all directions. This is the usual problem with the licence that one takes in writing fiction. If one does not watch out, it could go wayward and the book suffers from this phenomenon. While the sub-title says that "What not to do at IIT", it is hardly about life in IIT - the incidents could have happened elsewhere. If we take the curiosity factor of IIT would the book stand as a neat work of fiction? No! it does not measure up to decent standards of quality.

However, it still made to the list of bestsellers because of the deceptively elitist tag attached to IIT and the curiosity factor attached to it. Bhagat of course has followed it up with a later book on the life at a call centre but possibly stopped short of a book on his later experiences at IIMA - where he studied.

The other book that came into the market recently is by Abhijit Bhaduri. The book Mediocre But Arrogant - expected to be acronymed as MBA is a book that lives up to its title. It is a mediocre book - but arrogantly claiming to be about "love and life in a B School". This is again set in a a place deceptively similar to XLRI, though it does not claim to talk about that particular school. The book is horribly dated for anybody to claim that it is life in a B School - set in early eighties when personal computers, blogs, mobiles and other means of communication were not in the lexicon of the students!

The author claims that it took seven years in the making leaving us to wonder what was so profound that it had to be seven years in the making and almost 20 years after the author's own brush with life in B School. The book amongst various places and various launches was also launched by film director Shyam Benegal, who apparently said, "lt could make a good film, but not by me by someone younger and fresh into the profession." This is a subtle way of saying that "This is not my genre". Obviously so. It is not thought provoking, serious and profound enough to tickle Benegal. Hopefully the other Benegal - Dev who made English, August might have a go at it. But for even that there has to be some freshness!!

While on the topic I wonder why Bhagat and Bhaduri are so obsessed about sex on campus. Why maggus never freak out, and why the protogonists never take anything in the campus seriously. Is life so clearly black and white? Obviously both the authors try to put an experience across, but by trying to put it in the form of fiction have made it so contrived that it leaves a reader like me terribly disappointed. While on the topic of books written by B School graduates I am tempted to talk about another mediocre book "Sack the CEO" by Jeetendra Jain, but unfortunately that is not about life on campus so I better keep it off this blog.


bottled-imp said...

quite interesting that your blog is dated 11-11 at 11.11 AM.
yet to read either of these books.

could another reason for the popularity of Bagat's book be the price?

and thanks for the heads up on the Sari shop. will put it up on my to-buy list.

ಎಂ.ಎಸ್.ಶ್ರೀರಾಮ್ said...

For Bhagat, Price might be a criteria, but I dont think that is the only thing. I guess there is a tremendous curiosity value in iit/iims - particularly knowing the life from an aspiring students perspective. Also people who have passed out of these schools might want to check out their own experience....
Does this explain why his second book One Night @ the call centre is successful? Possibly the same reason, people are curious to know how this tribe survives, and they would also like to check out their own experiences..

On the date and time being 11-11-11-11, it must have been a coincidence. I had not noticed it till you posted the comment!!


V said...

Just finished Mediocre but Arrogant. Just the usual trash. There is nothing remotely bschool about it... couldve been a silly 'story' anywhere.

Located a copy of Snapshots from Hell on campus. Hope this one lives up to its reputation