In September, the month where IIT-ians do distinctly non-IITian things, Samar was having the time of his life. With Rock shows, JAM sessions, debates and politics, his life resembled a colourful graffiti. Adding chaos to this randomness were his three partners-in-crime, Pranav, Skimpy and Jiya. Together they made sure that life was impossibly wild and barely legal.
Things hit a crescendo when Samar found himself as the frontrunner in the race for the head of the student body at IIT. And that is when the tide began to turn, in a way Samar could have never imagined. A causal ambition threatened to come true, and threw at Samar dilemmas that would stump any IITian with a pair of glasses. Dilemmas which required skills not taught in any classroom, including the secret art of disaster management.
A Post-Recession Campus Novel Pioneer
Anirban Mukherjee’s novel reads like a Bollywood potboiler, retold chapter by chapter, that keeps readers hooked till the end. While I read it, I could almost see it being made into a Hindi masala-movie. What makes this novel different from the rest of lad-lit Indian-English novels is consciousness of the time it belongs to. Although its stock characters and situations and the racy plot remind the reader again and again of commercial Hindi cinema, it is also a post-recession campus novel, expanding this ever-growing contemporary genre. Recession is discussed by the characters with chai in their hands, while they grade girls out of ten, standing by the roadside. Under the duress of recession, Samar, the protagonist, vows not to remain unemployed the following year during placement as the jobs mostly go to students who are powerful union post-holders — a decision that brings radical and swift changes to his life. The global financial crisis almost decides the course of the novel.
But this is not to say that the book shifts from the personal element; there isn’t any conscious attempt to tell how recession changes the lives of these characters but it is an important backdrop against which the drama unfolds. The characters are well-etched out and vividly portrayed — actually, only the male characters. Pranav is the most interesting of them all, and although his friend, the wayward Samar who does all the wrong things at the IIT, is a character in contrast, he cares a lot for his friend. Pranav remains Samar’s silent conscience throughout the novel, telling him what to do and what not to do while Samar goes through a whirlwind series of events in his pursuit of the most beautiful girl on campus, Jiya. (Incidentally, when she wears sleeveless outfits, the attendance at lectures increases). However, to attain Jiya, Samar has to pass several obstacle races, one of the biggest being his friend Skimpy, who is so madly in love with Jiya that he declares his love for her in sleep, when Samar is “smothered with kisses by Skimpy.” The race for Jiya decides the basic drama of the novel and has several complicated twists and surprises which include a scene where Jiya and Samar make out in a ladies washroom before their debate at the college fest and another when Skimpy finds both of them smooching in the dark near a tree.