Sunday, February 7, 2016

Serious Men - Manu Joseph

The story is set in an Institute of High Science with an impressive name in Mumbai - researching astronomy and black holes, time and extra terrestrial stuff. Serious men work there and try to promote their  pet causes and interests and projects. Led by the eccentric and brilliant Arvind Acharya the Institute is bumbling along mainly in pursuit of his Balloon Mission. But there is opposition for him in Namboodri of the astronomer group. To complicate matters Oparna Goshmalik enters the scene and messes with everyone's head with her youth and beauty.
A dalit clerk with an IQ of 148 and who had cracked the Mensa, Ayyan Mani, works as PS to Acharya. He is unhappy that his lot will never get into the Brahminical positions that the top scientists occupy how much ever brilliant they are. He uses his intelligence and his devious mind to falsely promote his son as a genius and also to find out all the secrets at the institute. Meanwhile Arvind Acharya stumbles into an affair with the desperate Oparna who is fatally attracted to him (she is fatally attracted to males in general). Acharya withdraws as quickly. Oparna is a woman scorned and she writes to the Ministry that Acharya made her forge the samples in his test project and there was no trace of extra terrestria life as claimed. Acharya is dismissed and Namboodri and his cronies occupy his place.

But Ayyan, who likes Acharya, has an ace up his sleeve - a recording of a private conversation between Acharya and Oparna that exonerates Acharya from the crime. Acharya is back. Namboodri is also caught on tape saying bad things about dalits and gets beaten up. Ayyan and his son continue cheating the system (why he would do that instead of getting his son to study all that is something I could not understand but perhaps Ayyan had his own experience before him).

Interesting the way the Brahminical society and the intelligent and devious dalit are pitted against one another in a scientific environment. The brahmin gets the girl and the top post. the dalit plays the sidekick and is happy in his place. Though a lot has been written about it as being funny and real, I found the novel an okay read. It is well written and the story is nice - just that it moves rather slowly and the characters are too low key. But the issues are real and that way, funny.

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