Book Review: 1888 Dial India by Anuvab Pal

Title: 1888 Dial India
Author: Anuvab Pal
Publisher: Random House India
Genre: Fiction
ISBN: 9788184001587
Pages: 230
Source: Publisher
Rating: 4.5/5

Anuvab Pal is one of the wittiest writers I have read in a while. I would not classify his writing as necessarily funny. His writing style is more sarcastic and satirical than anything else. He writes about India – today’s India and what it means to its citizens and how outsiders view it. I remember watching his play, “The President is Coming” with much trepidation – as he wasn’t a known playwright back then. I also recall enjoying the play a lot and then also watching the movie with the same enthusiasm. As I read his new book, “1888 Dial India” I was certain that I would read more by him in the future.

1888 Dial India is a book about new India and its follies. It is about the illusions it is creating and how people are emerging to be a part of the consumerist culture that is taking over half the country. The year is 2009. America is in a financial mess. Unemployment is in the air and doesn’t seem to go away easy. Enter: Arun Kumar: Entrepreneur, pragmatism personified, evangelist of new India’s dreams and under the impression that he can outsource the saving of American lives to India as well.

That is the crux of the book, however there is more to the surface than what meets the eye. Anuvab’s eye to detail is brilliant – the nuances of everyday living are skilfully displayed – from the BPO culture to the merging of India’s past, present and future perceptions. Corporate culture is most certainly written about a lot, however not in the usual boring tie and meetings affair – Pal’s writing comes from observation and there are so many instances that I could relate to having worked in that environment for most of my professional life to date.

I enjoyed reading the book more so because of the writing style. It is well-paced and it is at times in your face, however that is where the humour stems from, so one can overlook it. The writing nonetheless is crisp and to the point. It does not at any point get preachy, which is how ideally one should write when talking about current issues.

For me reading 1888 Dial India was a welcome change from the usual literary fare. It was something that happened by chance and I will re-read it for a laugh or two. It is definitely a perfect read for one of those lazy Sunday afternoons.

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