Book Review: I’m Not Twenty Four…

I'm Not Twenty Four... by Sachin Garg

What Chetan Bhagat perhaps started, was big enough for many engineering graduates, like myself, to take up writing seriously and follow a passion that few dare to pursue. Following CB’s suit, perhaps, is Sachin Garg. Though not an IIT-IIM pass-out like Bhagat, but an engineer from DCE and a management major from MDI Gurgaon (another prestigious MBA institute of the country.) BlogAdda’s Book Review program landed me with Garg’s second book, I’m Not Twenty Four… I’ve been nineteen for five years…

The prologue of the book tells Sachin’s story how he met a girl named Saumya, working in a steel plant in a remote village in Karnataka and the book has thence-forth been written in the first-person view of the girl. Saumya, a pass-out from MDI Gugaon lands up in a man’s job in Toranagallu in a steel plant, all because of her unisexual name. I’m Not Twenty Four is the story of an ultra-modern Delhi bred young girl Saumya, working in a steel-plant in Toranagallu. Saumya, an HR major is designated as an Assistant Manager in the HR department and is assigned the profile of handling the reaction team in the Safety Department. Having come from a pampered Delhi lifestyle, Saumya not only finds it difficult to adjust to her new surroundings without any real friends but also proves to be faint-hearted in times of some gore accidents that she is asked to handle. Accepting the fact that she is not fit for the job that she has been assigned, she decides to quit, just when she meets a dusky Bengali hippie/wandered, Shubhrodeep Shyamchaudhary, who loves weed and beer more than anything else in the world. It is then that she sees a new side of life when she learns about his experiences in life and his ‘Move-On’ theory which makes him stay in no place for more than 90 days.

Right from the onset of the book, I felt too many words being wasted to describe a small event and too many repetitions of adjectives and descriptions. A few pages into the book, you accept typos and grammatical or time-line errors an integral part of the book, though on the part of the writer, I consider it as a cardinal sin. (Forgive me, if I too make them, but they are OK only as long as its a personal blog.) The first 50 pages of the book, though establish a setting for where the rest of the events take place, but they are highly likely make you put the book down due to a lack of Wow-factor as I like to call it. The story begins to get a bit interesting on the entry of Shubhrodeep (Shubhro), but soon falls back to a sluggish pace. The chain of events that provoke Saumya to arrive at the decision of quitting her job and going back home make perfect sense following the psychology of her character but the re-entry of Shubhro in the story is predictable and desirable in order to bail out the reader from succumbing to the sluggish pace of he book.

The second half of the story takes Saumya through the life of Shubhro and his experiences in the 12-odd cities around the world that he has lived in for three months (90 days) each. Saumya falls in love with Shubhro at first sight, and his character never fails to shock you throughout his stay. What disappointed me the most was the porous description of the 90-day stay of Shubhro with Saumya and the untimely death of a potentially interesting character, Mallapa just before Shubhro’s re-entry.

The character of Shubhro is very well written and there there is not too much to be credited to any other characters, other than Saumya herself. What struck me a little into the book was the fact that the biggest folly, perhaps, that Garg made was to write a story as a girl’s first person account when he himself is a man. Let’s accept it that you do not expect a man to fathom the feelings of a woman, leave alone writing something from her perspective. The second half could have been more interesting had Garg experimented with Shubhro and provided a more vivid account of his stay.

The story picks pace around the 180 page mark when on the last day of his stay with her, Shubhro confesses his love for Saumya and they entwine into passionate love-making, only for Saumya to wake up and realise that Shubhro had left, without a trail, without even bidding adieu, in resonance with his ‘Move-On theory.’ It is only in the last two chapters of the book that you are actually glued to the story and I, personally, silently cursed Garg for leaving the good (mind you, I’m using good and not the best) for the last. The book in its last 20 odd pages becomes a mystery you want to unfold. It was Shubhro’s story, how a Bengali kid with a noxious childhood made it to IIM, graduated with an MBA in finance and ended up a hippie for the world to curse, when he was silently doing social service for the under-privileged in each city he visited. Shubhro’s story is inspiring and the way it was narrated, made me wonder whether Sachin Garg was facing a writer’s block when he wrote the rest of the book.

I’m going with 1.5/5 for Sachin Garg’s I’m Not Twenty Four…, instead of reading the whole book, I would suggest you read the back cover followed by the last 40 pages of the book. Sachin Garg has written something different from other Indian authors but the book lacks novelty in form and idea and is something that you can easily miss. Read it if you have nothing better to do on a lazy Sunday afternoon but do not have any high hopes from the book as it is one that you can easily put down and forget till you dust your book closet sometime in the future.

My Rating: 1.5/5

This review is a part of the Book Reviews Program at Participate now to get free books!

Book Review: Revolution 2020

Chetan Bhagat and his new novel Revolution 2020

Chetan Bhagat’s latest release, Revolution 2020 has hit the stands and it’s doing quite well. Why wouldn’t it? After all he’s India’s largest selling novelist of all time perhaps. Famous for being a ‘youth writer,’ Bhagat’s earlier books have either all been adapted into movies or are on their way to be. In the midst of all this, Bhagat manages to come up, once again with a very interesting four hour read.

As seen in all his previous books, a 20 something, middle class background, struggling engineering student, like me, relates very well. So much so that the first half of the book felt like I was reading my own biography. Jokes apart, Bhagat beautifully depicts the agony of a mediocre AIEEE ranker who is too good a guy to be the boyfriend of a girl who he has clearly been dating for seven years. Revolution 2020 is a story of two guys and a girl, a clichéd masala bollywood love triangle with a very unusual end, for a change.

Set in Varanasi, Gopal, a sincere small town boy from a very humble background, narrates his story. A story about love, deceit, corruption, success and sacrifice. Aarti, the girl who Gopal is best friends with since primary school and the girl he loves, is portrayed as a confused, beautiful girl who turns Gopal down because she has never thought of Gopal in ‘that way’ and wants to be just friends, yet she somehow manages to become Raghav’s girlfriend out of the blue. Bhagat, trough Aarti, unfortunately fails to portray women any differently than he has done before. For someone like me, who has read all his books before, reading Revolution 2020 wasn’t like reading anything new. Raghav, Gopal’s friend Aarti’s boyfriend is a JEE ranker (unlike Gopal), studying in the prestigious BHU and wanting to be a journalist some day. The story revolves around the two guys differentiating between the two at different stages of life.

While Bhagat strums the right chords with the protagonist Gopal (or I would rather just call him the narrator as no one is really good or bad here), at the same time, he fails to develop the character of Raghav, who only remains the other guy in Aarti’s life. The relationship between Gopal and Aarti is depicted beautifully over a span of 7 years from cover to cover. I could feel myself mumbling under my breath at several occasions. Gopal’s journey, from a pauper to a prince or from a guy who couldn’t secure an engineering seat to a businessman who opens his own engineering college is magnetic as he accepts the political and bureaucratic system, while that of Raghav, as a struggling journalist, fighting the same system, comes across as an under-written mystery. Aarti is as confused as all female characters have been in his previous books have been and after a certain point into the book, you stop hating Aarti and start hating Bhagat for being a chauvinist. [Yes my friends it comes from me who himself is blamed of being a misogynist many a times.]

Though the name Revolution 2020 comes from Raghav’s newspaper in the book with the same name, Bhagat fails to justify the title of his book. The unexpected ending to the story is less of an open ended reality of life and more of an unfinished tale. Read it because it’s cheap and costs less than three figures but do not expect to be pleasantly surprised.

My Rating: 3/5

Frankly Speaking, I was generous with that and I would also like to give a word of advice to Chetan Bhagat: MOVE OVER IIT AND AIEEE! That might be the biggest event in your life, but life is more to that and with your fifth book at least, we expect you to give us a novel (and not a screenplay.)