Book Review: Five Points Someone
The book starts with a tagline “What not to do at IIT” and in all fairness sticks to it. For FPS is NOT a book about IITs anymore than Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance is about, well motorcycle maintenance. For one, it could have been set absolutely anywhere and would still have been as enjoyable as a well made teen movie.
Yes that’s a compliment, for FPS — whatever else it doesn’t have — has all the makings a bollywood love story, including its obsession with the lame and the banal.
Like, the protagonist is hit by (sic!) a charming girl who ends up being (yeah you guessed it right) the prof’s daughter. The prof (yeah right again) is the HOD of the institute…
Or, the young prof back from US is the only prof who looks beyond grades…
Or, the topper has oily hair and is a hopeless mugger…
Or, the coolest guy is the last in the class in GPA
But that’s just a minor crib. The thing that I felt barely twenty pages into the book was a creepy feeling — the kind you get when you see the author talking in stereotypes and you know that the subtleties is the last thing you can expect, and that he’s going to screw up badly. Way before the end, I was vindicated. Bhagat hit onto something interesting and ended up spoiling it big time.
I asked myself, if I had read this book before going to the IIT, would I have ever wanted to go to a place like that and my answer was (using the IIT lingo) “scope hota hai!” (not a chance). The very idea of fun in the book is so beaten — grass, vodka and Floyd. I mean, I understand the profs being stereotyped but why do even the I want to break free students have to be cardboard characters? I was just a matka student (as the real IITians — the btechs would call the post grads), and still in less than half the time I had more fun in IIT, and met more interesting people than any in the book can ever come close to.
Bhagat’s story on the other hand goes on creating the carefree five-pointers having fun and the nerdy mugger nine pointers missing on life stereotype that’s so disappointing coming from an ex-IITian. But my worse disappointment is that the book completely misses the excitement, the sheer intoxicating excitement, that life on IIT campus is — despite the backbreaking workloads and the monstrous relative grading system. Where are freshie nites, the socials, the PAFs, the Mood Indigos (or its counterparts), the wing-treats, the film-shows (and the pondy shows), the various clubs, the intra-hostel sporting events and spats, the late night carrom sessions, the doom competitions in labs … the list is practically endless. Surely not all of this can happen with people mugging up all the time?
But then, of course, Bhagat was not writing a book about IIT, he was writing a book that would be easy to read, fun and easy to market (successful on all counts). The IIT in the name is just to increase that marketability. Plus when you do it, you create a minor controversy — a sure recipe for success (any review is good review, right?).
To be fair, the book is not totally worthless. It has its moments of fun, and is a nice traveling companion, or just a relaxing read. If you’re looking for anything more, you’d be disappointed. It’s the Indian Da Vinci Code. All masaala no meat.