Serious Men – Manu Joseph

Title: Serious Men

Author: Manu Joseph

Published: 2011

Pages: 326   

Genre: Fiction- Humour

The book gives, in a nutshell, what the two extremes of the Indian social sector think of each other, of the world around it and the media. Caste has always been a touchy topic in India. Votes are fought on the basis of caste and hence nobody really bothers to address the underlying issues. For centuries there have been the oppressed and the oppressors. Though the identities behind the titles might have undergone a slight change, the larger picture remains the same.

I had heard a lot about Manu Joseph, the author, and hence was curious when I saw his name on the library bookshelf. Equipped with patience and time, this one was a good book.

Ayyan Mani is the sole breadwinner of a family of three, living in a chawl in Mumbai. The initial pages of the book give a good description of Ayyan and the way his mind works. He works in a premier research institute in the country and his boss is Arvind Acharya, a brahmin, who is also the head of the institute.

Ayyan’s eleven-year-old son has hearing difficulty in one ear and asks weird questions to his teachers in his class. Ayyan stimulates his son’s thinking by encouraging this behaviour and buying him books.

A newcomer to the institute, Oparna, becomes the centre of Arvind’s attraction. This is followed by power struggles between different sections of brahmins within the institute, which tests Ayyan’s loyalties. The story revolves around the lives of Ayyan’s family, Arvind’s family, the institute and the politics within and the role of the media in this entire maze.

I loved the descriptions in the book. They are vivid and detailed, making me picturise as the story flows. The tale gets a push in its rear only after page 285 though. Till then one gotta be patient. It felt like I was peeling a coconut off its rough exterior to find the sweet water inside. Patience is the key here. After page 285, the story becomes fast and sees to it that all the loose ends are firmly tied.

One thing that I liked was that the author hasn’t minced words when it came to the prejudices that come with the character. He also has incorporated some of the laughable notions that resonate more with us now, given the present political climate in the country. Snapshots of some of my favorite lines are given below.

I would give portions of this book numerous re-reads since I loved the mind-voices of the characters in it. I would also seek Manu Joseph’s other titles for his witty jibes and sarcasm.

Pro tip- Don’t miss those “Thought for the day” jibes from Ayyan.

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