Chetan Bhagat might have scored a five-point average in IIT, but Kannan Shastri gives him a perfect 10 for Five Point Someone. Youthful, funny and highly original, the book guarantees more than a few laughs. Humra Quraishi, meanwhile, catches up with the new celebrity on the literary block.
Chetan Bhagat may well have scraped through IIT as a five-plus pointer. But he scores a perfect 10 with this book — a hilarious, rollicking account replete with witticisms and unforgettable one-liners.
The book, as the blurb says, is not to help people who aspire to get into the IIT, or even help those who are already there to pass out successfully. Far from it. It is about this guy, Hari, and his two friends, who consider themselves the underdogs because they have five-point something GPAs (Grade Point Averages), and their (mis)adventures in the four years they spend at IIT. It is about their constant struggle to beat a system which judges everyone by their GPA, and which, they feel, suppresses the creativity of a person. So they set out to make the most of extra-curricular college life, by devising schemes which will help them maintain their five-point something averages with just two or three hours of study a day. The resulting free time is spent in boyish adventures, be it playing squash, roaming the city or trying to woo the professor’s daughter. In short, all that they should not do at IIT. But the one thought nagging them all is, will they make it?
The book, besides having a humorous appeal, also deals with the fears and insecurities of the students in one of the country’s top institutions. Its description of the lives of students in IIT or other higher-education institutions such as IIM or NID, rings true. It could be Harvard, except for the desi flavour of the locales. IIT provides the backdrop against which the story unfolds, but it could just as well have been any other elite institution — elite in terms of the aspirations of its students but eclectic in terms of their social, cultural and economic backgrounds.
The author delves into the minds of the students, their motivations and aspirations in the competitive atmosphere of IIT. The personal lives of the characters are also beautifully interwoven into the narrative. The protagonist’s involvement with his professor’s daughter forms the love angle of the plot, and their love life accounts for more than a few laughs. The fact that her father is the kind of person no under-performer wants to meet, only adds to the drama. Sentimentality is kept low-key, but not underplayed while portraying the warmth of friendship or bonds of attachment.
The book dispels the commonly held notion that IITians generally ‘have it made’. The reader gets to know that life at IIT is totally performance-oriented, with never ending notes, assignments, lectures, etc. It is also a subtle take on the GPA system, which kills the students’ originality. But, in the end, the characters realise that it is precisely this drudgery that makes the IITians what they are.
The narrative is
interspersed with wonderfully funny incidents, like when Hari sneaks
into the professor’s house in the middle of the night to wish his
daughter a happy birthday, or when he appears for a viva after downing
half a bottle of vodka to "boost his confidence". The language
used is original, and the dialogue fresh and youthful. The casual,
easy-flowing style makes for easy reading. This is 270 pages of pure
fun, and a steal at Rs 95. Carry on, Bhagat. You are doing pretty well
for a five-point ‘somethinger’. There’s (been) life after IIT. So,
tell us more, even while we wait for Bollywood to light up the screens
with your script.