Tuesday, February 19, 2008

IIM -----> Ganjundwara

Books by IIT and IIM grads about their work-in-progress lives are now an established genre of writing. So I won't refer to the new effort by Rohithari Rajan as 'another one of those'.

I think each of us has an interesting story to tell and so is this one. The trouble lies in the way it's told. First of all the title: IIM ----> Ganjundwara (yes, that's the way it appears in print!). Reminds me of a flowchart - dry and logic driven. And that's how most of the book comes across: no heart, all head.

IIM ---> Ganjundwara is the story of two young IIM A grads who are sent to live in a village as part of the famed HLL sales training program. The 'training' is more about just dealing with the culture shock, experiencing what it's like to live in rural India. Of course, a couple of projects do need to be completed and here the idealistic Shyam decides they will take up something which will actually 'make a difference'.

The main problem is most of the book is written in third person, instead of flowing along easily and conversationally. To give you an example.

Dacoity is unheard of nowadays, we are told. All the big bandits and their gangs surrendered to the government and became politicians. Safer, more glamorous, and the money is better.

"Understanding the role of caste politics is very important to understand the region," continues the BDO."Each village is dominated by some particular caste." There are Jat villages, Mohammedan villages, Brahmin villages, and village dominated by one or the other of the innumerable castes and sub-castes that make up the complex rural Indian social structure.


And that's the second problem: the language. The BDO speaks in pure English, like Nandini Sardesai lecturing at St Xavier's college. And so it is with Martand Tiwari, the sarpanch of village Ranpurgaon, who is their host. And his brother Anuj who becomes their friend. The use of a few Hindi or Bhojpuri words and phrases would have made it so much more genuine!

Lastly the character of Shyam - the trainee who suffers the rural stint with our protagonist (don't know his name, not sure if it was mentioned anywhere even!) He is this idealist and was a little too cardboard. It's like he was being set up to meet a certain fate (will not say more, read the book if you wish to know!).

And no, there's no Brokeback Mountain happening here, in case you were wondering. That would have been too too much for fair and lobhely loving Ranpurgaon.

This could have been a great book with better writing and tighter editing. As it is, worth a read if you are curious to know what rural marketing and Project Shakti is really about.

However IMHO the definitive 'what it's like to work at HLL' book remains 'Earning the Laundry Stripes' by Manreet Someshwar. That also has a couple of chapters on the rural stint at Etah. Sadly this delightful book is not available at most bookshops - at least I have never seen it.

Speaking of IIT-IIM type books there is also 'Joker in the Pack', sent to me by Ritesh
Sharma and Neeraj Pahlajani a couple of months ago. Guys, I'm sorry I did not review it although I did read it. Again, I can see a lot of effort went into it but the final result kind of left me cold. I did not care about Shekhar Verma and what he went through.

And I felt you basically 'educated' the reader about what life in IIM Bangalore was all about Instead of - for those couple of hours - immersing me in that world. But again, if I were a wannabe MBA or a nostalgic alum, I may want to read it. Especially for an insight into the current placement circus!

I think it's simply project report and PPT hangover. Maybe they should start a new variation of the classic WAC course @ IIM: "Wannabe Authors & Communication".

7 comments:

  1. I have a big grudge with the IIT IIM authors.. Once 5-point became a hit every body feels that putting an IIT IIM name to a novel will make it sell.Base it on any college, but write it well at least. Two novels based on IIMB have come out in the last year itself and they were pathetic.. they were more like a time table of activities we have here. but my biggest grudge is that in their desire to provide the insider's view to the IIM aspirants(which is their main target audience) they disclosed some things which should not have been disclosed..and they call themselves alums!!

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  2. Well, I would not mind if the BDO and the sarpanch use impeccable English. There would be many people who'd be put off by Hindi/Bhojpuri dialogues, and many who wouldn't even understand them. I am no proponent of English but then that is Rotihari Rajan's style of writing, unlike yours, who unnecessarily includes Hindi phrases even in blogposts.

    But then, both IIM--->Ganjdundwara and Earning the Laundry Stripes look interesting. Let me see if I can lay my hands on them.

    ReplyDelete
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