A New Literary Genre

It’s well past midnight and I slightly shift my not so lissome bottom on the ornately carved plastic chair to accommodate my new reading position after being closeted in the previous posture for over the last four hours.And since it’s ten minutes past midnight and my friend/ antagonist Ravi Shankar’s birthday I decide to cast away the engrossing book in my hand for some time and chat with the devil. First I dial his cell; it rings in its monotonic tring-tring (he would be the last guy in the world whom I would expect to have a caller tone) and strangely… “The number U’ve called is not accepting any calls at the moment. Please try again latter.” Now that’s perplexing. Which fool wouldn’t answer a call on his birthday unless he were the President of USA (hope FBI/CIA is not reading my blog. I ain’t a terrorist mate). So the next natural option was to dial his landline and Damn! I must have expected it: “All lines to the number you’ve dialed are busy…” I cursed the Airtel and the BSNL IVR ladies in the choicest of expletives for not putting the call through. But guess it must be tough being Ravi Shankar. So many fans (most/all of them males), so many commitments, a busy work schedule that knocks out the living daylights out of him, different city, different life, no girlfriend, no pubbing, always on the move and finally a nice guy who doesn’t have the luxury of blowing his top because he is fixated in a image of Mr. Nice Guy. And of all the days today was his special day. As the fateful clock had struck twelve; He had grown older; lost a few hairs, put on some weight, picked up a corporate nasal accent and some gibberish coding lingo, had a wardrobe makeover, had become a coffee addict yada yada.. People change…

Bouncing back from my physical/economical/intellectual/psychological analysis of Ravi Shankar I try for the landline number hoping for the call to get through. Same reply. Damn the IVR’s!Guess someone special must be melting his/her heart out to him saying all nice and sweet-as-candy (SAC) things wishing him many happy returns of the day/night. I was mentally preparing as to what SAC things I must tell him when suddenly a shiver went up my thighs. Hold it. It’s not what you think.

Whosoever invented this vibrate mode in cell phones must be hanged till death; blistering barnacles; ten thousand thundering typhoons It just shook the living daylights out of me. The caller id is one nifty addition to the cell phone I’ve always grateful for. It lets me pick my callers and get the right tone for chat. A formal and obedient son when it shows ‘Delhi Home’ calling; a jovial carefree tone when it displays ‘pal/paless’ calling; and a reserved and guarded tone when it shows‘new number/un know’. In this case the late Midnight caller turned out to be the ‘big’ man himself. It’s rare that I’m out of words or eloquent expressions when the situation demands it but now I was truly caught off guard. My fingers as if on auto mode pressed the accept button and there was a live voice on the other end. “ Thanks ra…” was the first phrase I heard. Holy cow! Now this guy was thanking me even before I had wished him; some damn hurry he must be in. I forgot that I had to say‘happy birthday’ and grinned idiotically to myself that this is something new. We were communicating on a telepathic level. We were talking and posing questions to each other via telepathic waves and he replying in verbatim over phone lines, which were for lesser mortal souls. Even sci-fi had a to take a back seat now; it was happening for real…Now only Ravi has this amazing ability to squash all my far stretched thoughts into pulp even before they take off from ground zero. He said, “ Sorry I cancelled the call on cell. It’s in roaming mode bey 4 bucks for accepting a call. I guess you had called to wish me.”…. There goes the steam off my ‘protocol of communication of intellectually bonded minds via telepathic waves’. An interesting research paper it would have made. We jabber on like good ol’ blokes for sometime and hang up. I’m back to my engrossing book again.

Well I’ve hit a ‘purple patch’ of late. It’s like the time in your life when everything seems to go the way you want it. Life feels colorful and lively. No class work, no boring lecturers, no shocking announcements, no internals on the distant horizon, no attendance blues etc. waltzing to a glorious end to my undergraduate studies. Save for a few preposterous outings called ‘industrial training/ project work/team building exercise’ the whole day I’m bedridden. Bedridden? You ask. Yes, bedridden as in bedfast /bed rid/ sick- abed whatever you call it. The only difference is that I’m confined to my bed these days not because of severe sickness but due to a bout of extreme laziness. Sample this: I wake up at 10 or 11 in the morning depending on when the bare bones propeller rotating above me is switched off. I castoff the thick moth infested Tibetan woolen rug away as if it was a hindrance to my freedom and sit up straight on my bed in the ‘Nirvana’ position. I throw a glance to my right; adjust my shades and scan the wall on which hangs the messenger of eventuality. The clocks ticks away merrily unaware the impact its having on my life. If I’m awake a few minutes before schedule I immediately swoon; to make up for the time lost being awake. I curse my biological clock for the early wake up and try to fall into a deep slumber ASAP. I’m a big fan of Sigmund Freud. The man wrote volumes (and made money too) interpreting dreams. Now dreams come only when one is asleep; given the bulky volume of the book guess he must have slept a lot more than me. We were brothers-in-arms or more precisely Guru-Shisya. The only problem is my dreams are just like a puff of genie smoke. They appear in flashes and always have me in the lead role and they are not continuous like Ekta Kapoor’s serials. So when I wake up I eventually have parts of different dreams all jumbled up not fitting in a particular pattern to make a sensible story. Guess this confused state on waking up is what inebriates call ‘a hangover’.

A wise man wisely said: “ god has given all of us our very own time machines. Memories to travel back to the past and Dreams to travel into the future.”Guess he was a pretty wise man to have thought of something like that.

So I wake up again after making up for the lost time. Do the basic bodily needs routine and you guessed it right I’m back to square one. Nice cold tea awaits me on the stool beside my bed along with the newspaper carelessly strewn on the floor. I adjust to my yogi position: back straight, eyes focused, tea cup in left hand, paper in right hand and read on. I take my own sweet time reading the paper (why hurry?) and after being thoroughly satisfied, plan my itinerary for the day; which has nothing to do with travel. Breakfast arrives duly, but I have it on my bed fiddling my ipod and bowing down to my masters LINKIN PARK/BON JOVI /BRYAN ADAMS/ PINK FLOYD/EMINEM/METALLICA. I’ve made it a routine these days to start my day with LINKIN PARK’S Faint (its my suprabatham). After gulping down something that resembles an idli in its prehistoric form I click open an e-book and start reading till noon. At noon I suddenly remember that it’s been ages since I’ve had a shower (how water conservative ME). But like always my water repellant skin begs for mercy and I give in thinking of what great service I’m doing to the water starved planet. So I carry on with the book till its time for lunch, which is again bed served (my folks here have seem to concluded that I’m Sharukh Khan in the final scene of KHNH). After lunch its comics time, Tintin and Calvin are already eyeing me from the LCD screen. So after reading the hilarious comic capers I fall into sleep automatically. It’s my noon siesta now. I wake up after the sun has gone down and the moon has not still come up.I mumble to myself the benefits of sleep and sip the cold chai which makes a magical appearance when I seem to need it. Chai over, I’m back to novels again. I read on till its 3 or 4 am and crash off. This has been my routine of late (past one month) and it seems to refine itself to meet new challenges everyday. I see the disbelieving look on your face. It’s True. Every word. Every event.

But it’s not my fault. The bed is the criminal here. I’m not playing ‘passing the buck’ but it is true. It is said the person who slept on the bed before me was an old aging fool who had passed away calmly in his sleep. He too used to sleep a lot. So one day when he ‘kicked the bucket’ no one really noticed and thought he was in a deep slumber. Talk about ghosts haunting beds. Yikes!

I rate this bed I’ve been sleeping on the whole of last sem and this sem to be the most unfriendly ones in my whole sleeping life till date; my class benches are more cozy.Like Edward De Bono says that a man must wear different thinking hats I have my own maxim that a ‘sleeper’ must sleep in many beds. The current world-war-military camp-dead patient bed that has been my sleeping companion for the last five months was something I had wished for myself owing to my penchant for experimenting with sleeping mates. But a bed will always be a bed whatever its physical state. This one is a real beauty (mirror cracking material) when it comes to appearances. Seems like the person who made this bed was some damn cripple so he decided to let me also suffer by making one leg shorter than the other three. It constantly rocks (not as in swinging to a musical ecstasy) making an awkward noise every time I roll on the couch with my dream girl tightly held in the clutches of my mighty arms (in my dreams). The damn sound wakes me up and I end with a broken heart realizing that there was no voluptuous girl in the first place just my overcharged hormones and me.But a bed is a bed and this is the only luxury that I own in a place can’t call home. So I have to stick to it. And these past few days I’m literally stuck to it. Since there is no college these days my biological clock has gone a bit into overdrive mode and doesn’t heed to my pleas of getting up early (not that it did before). I was lucky that during the tumultuous exam days I had friends who eagerly gave me ‘wakeup-dumbo-its-exam’ calls to tickle the exam-fearing guy inside. My biological clock seems to have a microprocessor of its own. After analyzing and processing the facts inputted by the mind showing that 4-2 was a ‘lite’ semester the ‘mind of the sleep’ decided to follow its own course of action without informing the rest of the body. So gradually all the parts of the body became partners in crime. So whenever I tried to shake off my never ending dreary slumber one organ or the other would beg for some much deserved rest. Only the eyes, hands and mind were not partners in crime and they sober.

So where was all this induced state of bedriddenness taking me? I found out very soon. I discovered heaps of e-books stashed away on my hard drive aeons ago waiting to be read. I became a complete sucker for e-books. And the best thing was my computer happened to be a laptop so I just had to place it by my side like a mother places her infant baby and read away to glory, without hurting my already near-blind eyes thanks to the LCD screen. I discovered Archers, Grishams along with a host of many unknown writers waited patiently all these years for me to read their tales. My body readily adjusted to the new routine because only the eyes, mind and hands were involved I could carry out the task from my bed itself. Now If my mother had come to know of my routine I’m not sure of what she would have done but a friend of mine who couldn’t see my despicable physical ‘slumped’ state lent me a book to woo me out (for a temporary period though) of the e-book induced fantasy land back to the world of the book-u-can-touch-n-feel.

The name of the book was “ Anything for you, ma’am- An IITian’s love story”

I had once read a review about the book on Rashmi Bansal’s blog. She had scathingly remarked that this was an absolute-no-brainer whatsoever. I had then partially subscribed to Miss. Bansal’s views on the book but I guess I was too much in awe of the JAM editor so I sarcastically remarked in the comment section of her blog: “sochtha hoon main bhi writer ban jaoon”.  But reading the book today proved to be an eye opener on why we should not blindly subscribe to the biased views of a popular writer celebrity. Criticizing her is not my motive. But there are a few points one has to bear in mind when what one writes is read by many people.

Coming back to the book. It’s pretty engrossing from the first page to the last. At times you feel one with the character and at times you lift your hands in desperation saying “ holy cow! Now, how can that happen?” The plot is like the routine boy meets girl and does insane filmi-style things for her yada yada.The freshness in approach and the excellent timing of events had me hooked. And there is this wonderful piece in this book where the protagonist has a long chat with his sister about demystifying the female species. It was so revealing (in content and insight) I’m thinking of suggesting it as a must read passage for all my love-bug-infested/ I’m-still-single-sigh male pals. And what more I even managed a few non-occasional loud bursts of genuine laughter (folks here were surprised when I suddenly broke into a fit of laughter out of the blue) owing to the spontaneous wit and the lighthearted manner in which the tale is told.

After completing the book (just 250 0dd pages), as has been my habit since long I try to analyze and draw parallels with my latest conquest to any previous ones I might have read. And this time the conclusions were just forthcoming.

I had first encountered the likes of ‘Anything For You, Ma’am’ in the insanely phenomenal best seller ‘Five Point someone [FPS] ’ and had followed it up with my current favorite ‘Mediocre But Arrogant [MBA]’. I now feel I’ve got an intuitive awareness to the spot many common threads binding such kind of novellas.

  • The first being, ALL the above-mentioned books are set in the premier institutions of our country.                                FPS, AFYM – IIT DELHI, MBA- XLRI.
  • The main protagonist is a male always (not sure if the authors are MCP’s).
  • There is always a troika aka DCH.
  • Life seems to be always ‘going to the dogs’ for the protagonist(s)
  • Professors are always a big pain in the ass.
  • There is always a nerd/geek/psycho.
  • Bunking is bliss.
  • Music, booze and PENTHOUSE/PLAYBOY are omnipresent.
  • There is always a love interest.
  • The subjects taught seem to be of no practical value.
  • There is always a den or eat-out where all the brainstorming sessions are held.
  • Characters have colorful nicknames.
  • There is always a Surd, a Tamilian / Mallu (default)
  • The protagonist is always seen as struggling for money.
  • There is always a super cool guy like Ryan in FPS or Rusty in MBA.
  • The female protagonist is highly intellectual the rest are plain bimbos.
  • The protagonist does something very crazy and lands in a soup.
  • Exams have the characters ‘by their balls’
  • The Music- Beetles, Bryan Adams, Rolling Stones, Elvis…
  • The drink- Vodka (nothing seems to beat it)
  • The guy flirts and falters; the girl falls for his innocent true heart.
  • People fag like hell.
  • Marks are of least importance.
  • There is always some punishment given to the protagonist.
  • Viva is a test of intellectual crap.
  • Hostels are, well you know…
  • In the end the professors end up being the good guys.
  • There is always a savior professor.
  • The conclusion is always happy. The underdog no more remains one.

Well, when I go through the above list again I feel like I’ve composed a list of ingredients for a best seller, if only writing a book was that easy. Every bloke who thinks he has a knack for writing or ‘a way with words’ doesn’t end up being a writer. Writing is an art and creative writing is more than just an art.

The authors’ though first timers have meticulously worked on their books and the results are for the publishers to see, who are laughing all the way to the bank.

The authors are masters of their trade and are the stories very humorous (I laughed like mad while reading FPS and MBA). Their USP is the witty down to earth presentation. A good story when told in a bad way robs it of all its charm and vice  versa.

The advantage the above-mentioned authors have is that they have themselves lived through some of the experiences they have mentioned in their books (tough none admits that openly). So it is far easy for them to incorporate it into the plot than for any novice who would have to imagine the situation and then write.

The ‘premier’ college setting is an added advantage because so little is known about the life on these campuses that people are all eager to know more and these books aptly fuel the market. The same plots could have happened elsewhere also but the ‘institute’ adds ‘value’ to the book. Hell. If I wrote a book about my crazy days at MGIT I don’t know how many takers would be there. The most probable first question will be: MGIT? Who? Where? What?

The bottom line of this whole discussion is that the publishing world has hit upon a new genre unknowingly.The genre of ‘insti-lit’ books as in the name given for mushy teenage romance books: ‘chick-lit’.

The market is in its infancy. There are so many premier institutions out there IIM’s, REC’s, BITS, MGIT and many more each having a unique tale of its own to be spun by an ex/current student.And combine such a ‘lite’ book with a killer pricing like FPS/AFYM were just 100 bucks; MBA was a bit on the higher side (but well worth it), you have a mega-sellout book. Everyone is happy. The reader gets his share of fun, the publisher gets his big fat bucks and the author gets his royalty. It’s a win-win scenario for all. Even the book pirates (I bow to them) get a wind of the phenomenal best seller in the making and do their bit in promoting it by mass illegal reproduction.

I envision a scenario in the not very distant future when every institute will have a book set in it by author who is/was a student. The institutes can promote these books in place of meaningless crappy prospectus. They could even follow product placement strategies that are now so common in movies and computer games to show their college in good light. The possibilities are ad- infinitum.

Like I said, the genre has just begun…

6 thoughts on “A New Literary Genre

  1. ^ whatever she said….excellent write up man…i dont know abt MBA or anything for you ma’m but this was a fantabulous blog…”comic to the core”RAVI SHANKAR — R.I.P

  2. Fine with all that… but when do I get to see M’06 part 2? And when in devil’s time would I ever see MBE? P.S: Why do you always take a dig on me? AH.P.P.S: Roaming is really a pain! And that was only to check out who would call me :pY.A.P.S: It was good ;). One More P.S: Hope MBE is more understandable and decryptable than this one.

  3. bed-ridden syndrome is awesome to experience! :D.. guess ur gonna miss it d most frm now on! "god has given all of us our very own time machines. Memories to travel back to the past and Dreams to travel into the future"… wisely said!yea.. would definitely love if we have tht genre in books!!may b u will start it! 🙂

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