Nomological Net

Stray thoughts from here and there. The occasional concern for construct validity. No more logic. Fish.


faults in the clouds of delusion

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Well above average

There was this guy I used to know in high school and then college. Bagchi. He was one of those select few who were known to all only by their surnames. I think he was a year ahead of me. He went to a different high school, and then he went to a different college. We used to bump into each other on the quizzing circuit -- maintained a polite hello-hi friendship. Later in college I found out that he was a close friend of one of my classmates as well, and we had a couple of brief friendly conversations the few times he stopped by to see her. I graduated from college; it wasn't long before I forgot about him.

I googled him one idle grad-student night a few years ago and determined he was currently a grad student as well. Thought for a second about whether to email him or not. Decided to do it if I ever found myself in his city (I used to drive past fairly frequently.) Forgot about him again.

Years passed, and I got an email last month from a guy I work with. It was a forwarded message from his sister, telling him about a new book written by a close friend of hers, and asking him to spread the word. I clicked on the link and found myself looking at this name from my past. Bagchi.

My first reaction was one of pleasure. Yet another of my old acquaintances had made good! This was tempered with a little question mark -- he'd finished his PhD, but he's now on the faculty at IIT-Delhi? Hmm. I replied to the person who'd sent me the email. His answer was mainly work related. True to form, I forgot about Bagchi again.

Week before last, I was in tumult -- tearing up my apartment looking for some papers I knew I had. Digging deep into the drawer containing Important Papers, I came across a letter written to me by my brother in 1995. The postscript caught my eye. It mentioned a quiz he'd gone to, quizmastered by Bagchi. This time, I remembered, and yesterday, my first really free day on my trip to Gurgaon, I walked down to the mall and plucked out a copy of Bagchi's new book from amongst the front row of new arrivals. I read it overnight.

As I read, I could not help feeling that the book, written in the first person by a middle-class Delhi-ite Bengali IIT aspirant who makes it to the top 100 and thence to the US, was strongly autobiographical. As I started reading, giving it allowance for the fact that I've become seriously intolerant of fiction lately, I pretended the protagonist was really Bagchi. I started guessing at who some of the characters might be based on. Parts towards the beginning were slow. Parts tended to drift. Characters were introduced who then faded away halfway through the story. Other plot lines meandered and disappeared. The language was occasionally simple, direct, and evocative, as I like it, and at other times overly ornate and flowery. Yet something about the narrative kept me turning the pages one after the other. There was no doubt, I was gripped.

The second half of the book really came together for me. Maybe that was when the housing colony angst bits and the aspiring rock star angst bits gave way to the academic life angst bits. I found myself identifying / identifying with aspects of every other character described there -- from the wannabe "great theoretician" who went all practical in making his life's biggest decision to the guy who proudly ditched his grades in courses he considered non-essential to the acerbic squash-playing professor. Sure, there were threads that seemed to make no sense. And there was a little bit of maudlin stuff and a little bit of self-conscious sex and a little bit of gratuitous violence. But that's life, right? The last fifty pages I didn't want the book to end.

Great going, Bagchi, though I wonder what you're going to do for a sophomore effort now. I hope this book does really well. Maybe if they make it compulsory reading at IIT study classes across the country -- that should help with the small flats and petrol prices. I can see the amount of work that went into this, and I don't know why but I'm really glad you pulled it off. Cracked it.

Go buy the book, the rest of youse.


Blogger J. Alfred Prufrock said...

The wife bought it last week - as a gift for somebody else. Now I have to get another copy. Tzalaton!!

Meanwhile, SA are 141 for 8 in the 40th. Jeepers!


4/08/2007 4:35 AM  
Blogger Tabula Rasa said...

mondo na kintu -- shob dik thekei :-)

4/09/2007 9:32 PM  
Blogger Revealed said...

It's like an epidemic, all these IITians writing books! I shall buy it (only cos u sed to) and if it sucks as badly as the slogan on the previous post I shall know where to address hate mail!

4/09/2007 10:26 PM  
Blogger M (tread softly upon) said...

Totally unrelated, but wanted to say thank you for something. And hope your Mom's doing okay.

4/09/2007 10:52 PM  
Blogger Tabula Rasa said...

why hate mail? we're both busy.

no problem, and thanks :-) she's right as rain.

4/10/2007 5:13 PM  
Blogger MISSquoted** said...

Just a stray thought but it's funny that all (two) of the Bagchi's I know, they are referred to as exactly that. Bagchi. I sometimes have to (actually) scratch my head to remember their first names.

4/11/2007 8:47 PM  
Blogger Tabula Rasa said...

that's right. now that you mention it.
ditto 'pande'.

4/12/2007 10:25 AM  

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