Tuesday, February 23
Russian sojourn !
Book name : Zero Percentile missed IIT,Kissed Russia
Author : Neeraj Chhibba
Publisher : Rupa
Price : Rs.95
Genre : Indian Writing (I might want to classify it as Young adult writing also!!)
On my own,I might not have picked up Neeraj Chhibba’s book Zero Percentile- Missed IIT Kissed Russia ,as the book’s name gave me the impression that this was going to be yet another IIT-centric story.A genre that has been done to death,IMHO. Thankfully for me,Zero percentile is much more than that.The book begins with a very elaborate account of Pankaj’s ( the Protagonist) childhood.Something I didn’t expect the book to talk about.I thought that the book would directly jump into the IIT- missed story..This part of the tale is fascinating,meanders and flows rather well.Most readers who grew up in India in the 70-80’s would relate to the incidents that Pankaj faces – tales of his ancestors,school -life, quizzing competitions and the competitive IIT-entrant scene.
Pankaj also meets his 2 best friends – Priya and Motu at school and their exploits are endearing.As Pankaj grows up,he is expected by his father to get into IIT.He finds out ingenious ways to get the coaching required as the family is not financially sound. The intelligent Pankaj also shows entrepreneurial skills and helps increase the student enrollment for the coaching classes he enrolls at. He expects to crack the IITs easily, but unexpectedly, disaster strikes and he is unable to realize his dreams. He sinks into depression and loses his enthusiasm for getting into IIT. He also withdraws from Priya, who he is secretly in, love with.
The second phase of Pankaj’s life starts with him getting a scholarship for Engineering (for 6 years) in the erstwhile USSR.This phase of Pankaj’s life is very entertaining.Apart from the usual exploits like alcohol and casual sex, the story also gives you a sneak peak into the times before the great USSR disintegrated.The writing style, one realises is pretty straight forward.No flowery language or metaphors.Narration style is neither complex or exquisite by any standards.The book reads like the script of a Hindi movie.A fast,racy Hindi movie shot in a foreign country.However,this happens to be the strength of this book-the author keeps you glued to the book from the word go.And, that is very commendable.
If not anything, the book is a page turner.The back jacket of the book almost gives away the plot,but you can be sure to expect the unexpected when you read the book .
Moving on with the plot, Pankaj’s tale in Russia talks about corrupt officials in university, Gang wars (literally!!) in the hostel and assorted sexual encounters.Pankaj also turns a successful entrepreneur and the rest of the story is about how he outwits his business rivals and finds love unexpectedly.In a way,I almost figured out the end ,despite the roller coaster ride that ensures before Pankaj is at peace with several issues that plague him.Any more information ,and I would have to give out a spoiler alert !! ..The last 2 phases of the book are so racy that, several times, I wanted the plot to slow down to give me some time to digest Pankaj’s exploits.However, the book doesn’t slow down for you.. The author also beautifully captures the socio-economic and political climate of USSR before it disintegrated.
For a first-time author, it is a good effort. The plot is definitely a winner.A thoroughly entertaining, unusual novel.At 95 bucks,it is a steal!.Its even available for 75 bucks in some sites
Four stars out of 5 for the plot,2 stars for the imagery and the Author’s writing prowess. Overall,3 stars out of 5 for Neeraj’s book. After this book,I am looking forward to his next book.!
This is an author requested review.