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February 11, 2012

Book Review - 69 : Along the Way

Author: TGC Prasad
Publisher: Rupa Publications

The hero, Venkat, joins NIT, Kozhikode and makes friends with a few of his classmates. After completing their education, the group of friends enter the competitive world of TCS, Bengaluru. Venkat has to deal with a demanding boss and the complicated workings of office politics. Romance blossoms and Venkat and his batchmate, Anjali, fall in love. Venkat begins to enjoy his job, makes friends at the workplace and finds his life moving along at an exciting pace. But relationships change their course, certain shocking events create rifts between friends – nothing goes as planned and Venkat and his friends look for ways to negotiate the roadblocks that crop up in their professional and personal lives. Anjali’s parents need a lot of convincing about the fact that Venkat is a potential son-in-law. Venkat hatches a strategy to cozy up to them and prays hard to his mother’s favourite deity so he can marry the love of his life.

'Along the way' captures the nuances of software industry competently and effectively, specially when it comes to detailing of the complex projects, strict deadlines, pressure on relationships, peer learning and conflicts. The tone is strictly young, hip and trendy and even though it does get monotonous after a while it still keeps you on engaged with the twists and turns. In the end it is a standard Bollywoodish coming-of-age and finding your own dream kind of a story but keeps you in the spirits with an affectionate romance between the lead couple and camaraderie among the friends.

Having read dozens of similar-sounding campus novels in the recent times, it was refreshing to see some real situations and dialogues poured in the first half of the book when the story is set in the engineering college. The interaction scenes between the Project manager/HR head and Venkat even though teetering on melodramatic moments and over-the-top sensibilities allows you to smile once in a while. I particularly liked the scene in which Venkat and friends get caught in a tangle having called 911 inadvertently on an onsite visit to US. Even the whole SRK calling Anjali's mom in a well-planned and executed strategy is far fetched from reality but at least packs in an emotional punch.

The only letdown is that it is damn too predictable and familiar. In fact, the prologue just withers away the whole story and the climax and you are just waiting to see how it will eventually unfold. The sub-plot involving the trivia questions with Venkat by the Colonel is repetitive to the point of boring. It appears so many times by the end of the book that it loses the initial charm. Even the hugging act to Raj seems forced on so many times that it grates on your nerves. There are stereotypes abundant here; with nagging parents, bunch of chaddi-buddies, evil managers and a sexy girl-friend. In fact, most of the characters in the TCS which were introduced with great detail right in the induction phase of Venkat are left in between with hardly anyone making a great impression to be remembered after you have put down the book. Even the interesting bits of Godfather has been quoted so many times it hardly makes a difference in the end.

I am going with 2.5/5 for TGC Prasad's 'Along the Way'. It is warmhearted and witty and captures the nuances of human relationships and workplace dynamics with ease. If it was a little shorter, better edited and less predictable, it would have been a much more rewarding read. If you are looking for a light fiction, it is not a bad away to spend a Saturday Night.

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