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June 23, 2011

Book Review - 37 : We Can Pull It Off

Author: Suresh Taneja
Publisher: Frog Books

It was the most unusual vacation for Vikram, Yuvika, Manisha and Akshay - the G4, as they called themselves. In the first few days of the vacations, they experienced some shocking incidents of declining moral values and corruption. These completely shook them up when they understood the implications. They dreaded the thought of being labelled as citizens of a corrupt country. G4 found this deplorable and decided to plunge into action. They had two weeks of vacation, which they productively used to start an initiative to address this issue. They used their creativity and a number of unique strategies which left an indelible mark on the public, making their initiative a mass movement. The result? A complete cultural change and attitude shift in the citizens' minds leading to a complete transformation of the nation, earning it respect and recognition globally.

Set in two different time periods - Washington 2030 and Delhi 2009-2013, the narrative describes how India has become a super power and what exact shift triggered that change by G4. Corruption is a major issue in India at this moment and is eating into the social fabric. This book provides a possible, probable solution with an optimistic point of view. Only glitch, the point of view takes superhuman and at times, impractical ways to achieve its agenda. The solution offered is too simplistic for the problem of this magnitude and does not offers enough reasons to convince its readers.

I can punch in a lot of financial and strategical loopholes in the agenda of G4 to bring about the change but that will get a little too academic for this book review. Let me just say that the whole strategy of bringing around a mass movement undermines the intelligence of its readers. There are never enough explanations given for any of the resulting positive outcomes and you are left lurching how exactly it worked out in the end. The author works with a straight two-piece narrative structure - show a problem and tell the solution, never sufficiently delving into the details how it is achieved. For example: We have been told right at the beginning of the book that in just 20 years, India have become economically sufficient to grant aid of 100bn USD. Fair enough, but it is never explained till the end of the book exactly how US has degraded their own economy so much that tables have turned against them. You got to provide justification for a reader to relate to this, not just superficial one-liners.

The sub-plots clearly ignores the diversity and cultural issues of India which in a way are the major stumbling blocks while implementing any change at a national level. Moreover, the change is brought upon by keeping the affluent or upper-middle class of India in mind. I don't have to remind where the majority of Indians live and what are the economic conditions they are subjected to. The book could have worked better if it was done at a micro level - applied to a city or maximum, a state. But since the 'change' is bought on an all Indian level, it comes across not only bizarre but in turn, undermines the spirit of the premise with a juvenileness that is hard to fathom.

If you are kind of a reader who looks for character depth or nuances, then you will sorely be disappointed with this narrative. Almost all characters are clones of each other: all speak in the same tone, style and are cardboard replicas who believe in the perfect world around them. However, the pace is fast and never stagnates. The 'Corruption Density Index' - how parents are rated by their children for corruption is a unique concept and stretches the imagination but never shows us way in which 'single' people are rated. The author seems fixated with two incidents of corruption - the Satyam scandal in the IT industry and the cash-for-vote scandal in the Indian Parliament. There are numerous references to them and all of them are succeeded by a moral lecture. The dialogues are bland, boring and editing leaves a lot to be desired. By the end of the book, you will be exhausted and drained out like coming straight from a political science lecture. Considering it is just 160 odd pages long, it is still a serious test of your patience.

I am going with generous (2+0.5)= 2.5/5 for Suresh Taneja's debut novel, We can pull it off. The author starts with a promising premise and the noble intentions associated with it should be applauded. But there is no excuse for giving us uni-dimensional characters, cheesy dialogues and even repetitive incidents in the narrative. Every one has an ear for hearing out preachy stuff, but there is no room for boring us. Read it because at least it tries to be different.

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