Friday, 18 November 2011

Review of Sachin Garg’s “I’m not twenty four . . . I’ve been nineteen for five years”

I have been voicing thoughts of mine as an Indian citizen, this time I thought I’d share those on a book I have just read – of a purely Indian story by an Indian author.

Sachin Garg is a young engineer with an MBA who has taken to writing stories and has started his own publishing house. His “I’m not twenty four . . . I’ve been nineteen for five years” is a small book written in simple language and definitely an easy read. It is the story of Saumya Kapoor, a 24 year old fresh MBA from Delhi joining her first job. Her posting to a small town in Karnataka is totally unexpected but taken by her in her stride out of sheer determination not to fail. The first half of the book is related to her getting the job, her astonishment of the place of posting, her preparations and her settling there. It is this part of the book that is unimpressive, there is no insight into her college or college friends, her actual lifestyle or even in her reactions to what she finds on reaching the village – in fact the recounting does not appear to actually relate to a village but rather to any typical large factory township. Further, the story has been written as the narration of a woman, and here I think Sachin Garg has failed. Merely by saying that he has written the story in Saumya’s own voice does not mean that it reads as Saumya’s narration. In my opinion, the author has not been able to capture the essence of femininity. Women tend to emote more, to jump from one thought to another, to react more strongly – the author has written the story in the dispassionate manner that he thinks women think. This is manifest by the logical pattern of the development of the story, the emotions supposedly underlying, do change the direction of events and happenings, but not the story telling. Also I did not like the style in that it appears more a chronological narration of happenings as in an autobiography without giving any insight into the mind and thinking of the protagonist. As far as the development of the male characters in the book is concerned, the very absence of any details about Amit, her classmate and present colleague, clearly bring out his non-importance in her life. But her reactions to Malappa and subsequently to Shubradeep left me wondering.

The book picks up when she starts her actual job in a steel plant – in the Safety Department rather than the more usual HR department. Here, unlike my expectations, she is not required to handle issues related to improvement of safety but rather the aftermath of failed security – a surprising role. The developments are unexpected and dreadful but here again the author glosses over the depth of her reaction by merely stating that she fainted. Subsequent events are again earth-shattering and left me, as a reader, more shaken than the protagonist appeared herself. And it is for this reason that I would recommend reading the book - the second half is bound to evoke emotions in you.

The story itself is excellent, unusual and exceedingly well conceived. Some situations are so powerful as to leave you gasping – the powerpoint presentation she is shown as part of her induction give the first clue of the totally unexpected – the shock value is huge. The end is great and worth the meandering of the book.

So despite the inadequacies I felt in the writing style and in the proof-reading, the story is unique and strong, and is one which you will remember and wonder – can this really happen. And Sachin Garg is well worth watching for his next story.