Thursday, March 15, 2012

God Save The Dork - Sidin Vadukut

Sidin Vadukut is one of India's funniest voices. He has this Wodehouse-ian quality of making you laugh aloud abruptly, without any control. He uses that pen of his to tap that funny nerve ever so often, in the most unexpected places, that by the end of the book, you have had enough loud laughs to have forgotten about the troubles of the world and to feel good about it actually. For this one quality of making me laugh aloud (not merely smile in amusement) Sidin Vadukut stands out as an outstanding talent in the ever-growing list of Indian writers in English. Far more intelligent, far superior language, much better plotting, highly believable characters, a superb turn of phrase - and one wonders why Sidin is not being ranted and raved about as some other writers are these days. He is way above most to me - for writing such brilliant comedy - which I believe is one of the toughest genres. I favor humour more than any and I do think we are in good hands  (now that the likes of Jug Suraiya and co have faded off), with the emergence of Sidin and the more recent  Krishna Sastry Devulapally who has made a promising debut with his 'Iceboys in Bellbottoms' (what's with the South Indian writers and comedy - the third funny book I remember reading by an Indian author was Srividya Natarajan's No Onions, Nor Garlic).

I read Sidin's first 'Dork' and could not stop laughing at the ball bearings incident. I don't remember how it came by in the book but I cannot forget how it was written, piling on the laughs and the agony of not being able to stop laughing. 'God save the Dork' (Penguin India, 242 pages, Rs. 199) has many more such instances as Robin 'Einstein' Varghese, now in London with his consulting firm Dufresne, on an assignment with a client Lederman, balances his expenditure, his awesome consulting capabilities, his amazing presentation skills, extraordinary charm and not to forget the highly likeable overenthusiasm that Robin is infected with. What makes it all so good for me is that Robin is all of us really - a shameless liar, greedy, stingy, full of himself (and some more...) - and you wonder at how wonderfully Sidin takes potshots at the overenthusiastic Indian. But then Robin is harmless, means no harm really, and ends up through these rather unfortunate circumstances generally on the better side. Sidin uses much Mallu (Deyivame..) but this is not just about Mallu's.

Taking off from a fortuitous turn of events in the first Dork, Robin lands up in London as a consulting prodigy. He is constantly seeking to improve his knowledge of British culture by visiting museums that are free (and skipping those that charge), buying stuff that comes with free items, downloading stuff from the internet (illegally, but no Indian will buy that), maroing line to the cute Chinese intern while trying to be faithful to his girlfriend the Shahrukh-loving Gauri and promoting the blackmailing Sugandh up the corporate chain. Robin gets caught in a shady exchange, a delicate matter where he tries to convince the Lederman chief to extend their assignment for what could be termed as something in return. It all comes crashing down when the deal is investigated but Robin's incredible luck holds yet again and he bails out not only the client, but his own company and his personal finances as well.

I don't bother too much about the rather predictable manner in which the plot unfolds at this stage, as I am more than happy laughing at Robin and his antics. The story goes along at a rapid pace and it draws you in completely. It would be interesting to see what Sidin will do when he ends the Robin series and the diary format - he is obviously a master at using the business consulting background, and at using the diary format brilliantly - but it is just academic. I would not mind if he wrote stuff like this forever.

Funnily I remember seeing two comments - one about Sidin being India's Dilbert and another about it being something about Mallu humour - both of which I don't fully agree with. Dilbert is a different medium altogether and the only thing common is that they are about the corporate world. Sidin's work obviously has much larger canvas and has far more detail and intrigue in the financial consulting world, while Dilbert is about offices in general. To term it as Mallu humour is not to have read the book at all.

The NIT, Trichy, IIM, A, grad is the sole hope for me so far from the IIT, IIM writers. I must say I am deeply disappointed with most of them, perhaps because my expectations were high (but they do churn out some mediocre stuff). Sidin keeps the flag of the IIM's high with high quality, intelligent, layered stuff that takes potshots at everything - the colleges, the profs, the corporate world, the way Indians are (and the way firangs are too). Apparently he writes on cricinfo too. Will be interesting to read his take on cricket. Well done Sidin - great job and keep writing on and on. For those who are still looking for a recommendation here's what I did. I borrowed the book from Vinod (a huge fan of Sidin, he himself being another of those writers who can make me laugh out loud) and gifted it to Ranjan. And for Vinod, I bought a brand new copy!

1 comment:

Vinod Ekbote said...

Hari, Great review. Waiting for you to give me my copy.