Author: Abhijit Bhaduri
Publisher: India Log Publications
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Mediocre But Arrogant – a story of love and life is set against the backdrop of a fictitious business school, MIJ – the coveted Management Institute of Jamshedpur. Abbey – the narrator and protagonist considers studying in MIJ as an act of “serendipity”. This is a story of how the two years of doing an MBA transforms Abbey’s life, perspective and relationships. Will Abbey find the love of his life? In a Darwinian microcosm of the corporate world, MIJ has taught Abbey to hone his survival instincts and shave off jagged edges of his character. Is this what he wants to be? what is the end result?
The book is set in 1980's India which places it a little differently from the numerous campus novels we have seen in recent times in the market. However, realistically speaking difference ends there...Stripped to its bone, it is a collection of same old cliches' of having bad and horrible professor (they are never good!), some quirky fellow students and friends, the parantha wala bhaiiya, dealing with the hectic MBA life and couple of love stories thrown in to complete the picture. Yes, you don't have the internet, the social networking, the mobiles and the madness about placements in the screenplay which eventually provides a respectable way out in making it not just another run-of-the mill novel.
Despite having a predictable plot, the book is engaging because all the characters are flesh and blood and the narrative very rarely digress from the main plot. You do find it unsettling when there is a constant hip hop between past and present in the first 100 odd pages of the book...which to be honest is quite unwarranted since it does not achieve much purpose as the final set piece and increases discontinuity in relating with the characters initially.
Having said that, it is still an entertaining read with light-and-frothy signatures style stamped across every chapter. The dialogues are hip and trendy (in sync with the time-period) and it is a light, cool, easy kind of book which either you have a great appetite for or absolute no interest. Adding to the fun quotient are the various handouts and drawings which are interspersed between the chapters. They are quite hilarious to glance through and portrays the depth with which the author know about his characters.
However, one particular plot point which i find really offensive was the ease with which relationships are taken here for granted. The love tracks between Abbey and the 2 girls in his life - Ayesha and Keya are superficial and remotely settles into anything concrete. Infact, there is a particularly awkward scene on the dance floor when Abbey gets caught between the jealousy of the 2 girls and really don't know how he should get out of the situation.
The portrayal of Keya is even more confusing to me. She is modern (even by the standards of 1980s), is cool with one night stands and don't shy away from being materialistic when it comes to using men for her advantage..which is all fine with me ....but surely some thought process must be gone into why exactly then he feels so strongly about Abbey. I don't have a problem in showing students having low moral values or confused about their sexuality, but somehow it leaves a bad taste. I just wished the central protagonist didn't came out to be so arrogant and cocky. It leaves you with an empty feeling which is a pity because essentially it is his coming-of-age story and ideally it should leave you on a high. Sadly, you don't feel much for him by the end because he don't care for the people in his life.
I am going with 2.5/5 for Abhijit Bhaduri's debut novel. The book is not really rocket science, it is one of the dozens of campus novels we have come across post Five-point-someone era. But it surely cockles the chords of your heart and brings a smile on your face.It is a pleasing tapestry of tender moments and of diverse characters straight out of your own college life, enough to keep you engaged. Don't read it with too many expectations, perhaps you won't be disappointed.