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Book Review: Five Point Someone - What Not to do at IIT, by Chetan Bhagat
chillibreeze writer — Dr. Roopa Nishi Viswanathan
If you are an IITian, you will probably relate very well to this light-hearted narrative about the life of three average guys at the Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi (And if you are an IITian you would also know what “average” in IIT means). If you are not an IITian, you will still enjoy this book like I did (I am not even a techie). Five Point Someone: What Not to Do at IIT may be about life in IIT, but the characters are as interesting as in any other book and are very un-IIT like (That says a lot). According to the author, Chetan Bhagat, this book is not about how to get into IIT or what to do once you are in, but what not to do there.
The autobiographical account lends itself to fine character development. The book is fast paced and has very funny conversational style plus lingo typical to those who come from the institution. A little eccentric (little may be the understatement of the year), IITians may be, but they are considered to be one of the most elite groups in the world. Wouldn’t say that about the three guys in Five Point Someone who manage to scrape through IIT, not without a few hair-raising incidents here and there. I would definitely give this book more than a five point something on a ten-point scale.
My friend and I both read this book and got into a discussion. Here goes.
Me: So what do you think, eh? Is the whole thing like typically what happens there?
G: Dunno. Haven’t been there, but have heard a lot of stories from friends. Sounds pretty much like what happens there once in a while, but maybe not all the time.
Me: This guy Hari, the main character, he seems like the prototypical intelligent sensitive guy who gets swayed easily by his friends. Seems to have no fixed opinions. Kind of like me.
G (smiles): Don’t know about that part, but yes, Hari seems very intuitive right from the beginning. But it’s Ryan Oberoi, who is my favorite. Standing up for his friends on every occasion. Man, I admire his guts. And I liked the raunchy humor in this book, most of it thanks to Ryan. Like that coke bottle thing! (Giggles)
Me (after I finish laughing): But I don’t get one thing. He has rich parents; he stands 91st in India in the IIT entrance (for those who are not familiar to the system, this means that he is probably in the Einstein category of brainy people) and then what? He screws up everything by loafing around. He is barely a five-pointer in IIT. Sounds strange.
G: Maybe the pressure got to him. I have seen guys like that. They stop caring after a certain point.
Me: But have you seen guys like Alok who can cry at the drop of a hat? Of course, he comes from a very impoverished background, has a sister to marry off, a sick father and all that, but hey…
G: Wait. Wait. There are guys like that too. The melodrama could have been cut down. Alok is too sentimental. I can understand Ryan not being able to stand him sometimes.
Me: Though he is kinda cute sometimes too. Poor Alok. Who do you think the author is out of the three?
G: I would say Hari. Hari is projected in a very neutral manner. I like the way Ryan and Alok get to crib about this in chapters provided exclusively for them to vent their feelings.
Me: Yes, that’s a creative concept in a book. By the way, what do you think about the whole story?
G: Its funny indeed, the things that keep happening to these guys. And the things Ryan comes up with for them to do, like for instance signing with their blood indeed (And you thought Tom Sawyer was gross). As for the “longest day in Hari’s life” episode, I found it a little far-fetched.
Me: Yeah, plus the ending could have been a little different. Though I can’t say that I was left unsatisfied.
G: Overall, a good book according to me. Brings out a lot of issues in the education system in India in general. Of course, IIT is way ahead in terms of competition compared to other institutions.
Me: And Ryan says IIT hasn’t contributed to India’s development. I think that is not true.
G: Yes, There definitely have been many scientific innovations brought out by the institution, but in general, the rule of thumb is that the good guys in IIT go abroad.
Me: Nowadays, that’s the rule of thumb with every technological institution. Then why blame IITians?
G: Anyway, I think some IITians would dread reading this book cause they wouldn’t want to be reminded of their harrowing experiences there.
Me (Smiling): Harrowing, but rib-tickling too. I am sure most of them have a lot to cherish.
G: And this book will take them back. In fact, it took me back to my college days too.
Me: Gotta go. Can I take the book with me? Am going to lend this book to my IITian friend, Ranganathan. Let’s see what he says about it.
G: Why? Are you conducting an opinion poll or something?
Me: No, I just want to write a good book review. Bye.
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—About our writer:
Dr. Roopa Nishi Viswanathan,
“Live life by the day.” Born in Hyderabad, brought up in Mumbai, settled in Bangalore after a brief stint in the US, Dr. Roopa Nishi Viswanathan is a doctor-turned-biotechnologist-turned writer. Nishi loves reading anything and everything, travel, watching movies with her husband, exotic food, .....let’s simply say she loves living.
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