Serious Men – Manu Joseph
I was keen to read this one, as it is the author’s first and as a first he gained quite an enormous amount of praise for his writing and the book. And yes, what a first! I did find some intelligent writing in there!
The story is about two men, Arvind Acharya, a scientist at the Indian institute of technology and Research and Ayyan Mani, a common man who is a clerk from a dalit section and works for Arvind Acharya. It has always bothered him how, the society is always in favor of Brahmins, and be it a workplace or a social community. It is always on his mind- how these Brahmins can be embarrassed, insulted or shown as downgraded people who are given so much undue importance on the basis of their caste though it should only be one’s skill and talent that must make a man progress the race called life, and therefore he and his pranks never stop, somehow giving him a momentary satisfaction. In one such prank, he goes way to ahead and involves his son Aditya, showcasing him as a genius with a fire to prove – what a sweeper’s grandson and a clerk’s son can achieve being from a lower section of the society. In the parallel world, Arvind Acharya is a much hated scientist at his workplace and is noted for his arrogance and a non-supporter of any random theory when it comes to physics and science; more often than not everything in his life boils down to his concepts revolving around science and physics. A group of scientists who have made Arvind a victim relating to his bad mouthed words and insult are in search of a moment to ruin his image and take revenge and they do find one. The plan works for them and Arvind loses his pride, position and stature in Indian Institute of Research center, when only one man comes to his rescue, Ayyan Mani. Why does Ayyan Mani help Arvind? Is there a personal agenda in doing so? Is Aditya really a genius that Ayyan claims him to be? How are Ayyan’s and Arvind’s life interwined? Has Ayyan really made peace with the Brahmin society? So many questions, but the book answers them all. The interesting thing to note is how these answers unfold to the reader. Manu Joseph does not give it to you outright, as a reader he makes you travel through slow paced plot, and every phase making sense and connecting to the link ahead. It is a very well framed story.
Now, why I say that it has some intelligent writing is because it covers all the aspects of a good book, a cleverly crafted work of humor, puns (not overloading it on the story), Ayyan’s emotions and grievance on cast, reservations, society of Brahmins and the politics which overrides all this. To add up, the love of a matured man Arvind Acharya, for the woman, for physics, his work, his theories and what he dreams to accomplish out of them have been shown aptly. And, moreover no character or no part of the protagonist’s life has been given undue importance; it is there because it needs to be there. It is a well balanced book, plot or story with no overdose of any particular element. The other character’s move in an out of the plot at correct times and nothing seems out of place.
The writer has done a very impressive job as his first. In a long time I read something which was mature, deftly crafted in terms of literature and covered some important societal aspects which we as citizens of this country usually ponder over. A thumbs up to this one, and eagerly waiting for the author’s next.