Hmmm so I am the Hungry Reader. The one who reads. The one who is constantly reading or wanting to read constantly. This blog is all about the books I have read, the ones that I am reading and gems that I plan to read in the future or whenever it arrives.
Title: 1888 Dial India
Author: Anuvab Pal
Publisher: Random House India
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.
So I received my copy of Bangalore Calling from the publishers and I as I sat down to read it, I almost saw my life flashing by. I have been working in the BPO Sector for about 9 years now and if there is one person who could relate to the book more than anyone else, it would have to be me and of course millions like me who work for this sector. Before I start with the review, I would like to say something about this industry. It grew and it grew at a speed that was unimaginable. From the very famous and pioneer GE Capital International Services (now GENPACT) to IBM making its foray to WNS to many such organizations who probably have been built by scratch in this industry. The BPO Sector in its own way and alone has generated so much revenue for the country, that it is astounding. I will not bore you with the figures, however certain (mis)conceptions that people have of the so-called “Call Centres” need to change. Our work is not mind-numbing. It can get monotonous just like any other job. I remember when I used to introduce my profession in a room full of lawyers and meds and corporate men and women, I would get the look that questionned: Why? But well that is one part of the industry. The other part is displayed beautifully by the author in her book.
Bangalore Calling is but of course about the BPO Callus (fictional? – I would not say so as it is modelled after so many BPOs I know and am aware of) based in Bangalore and how its employees live their lives day in and day out. There are fifteen interlinked stories in the book, that make you sit up and take notice. The stories are about the call centre employees – from an agent to the manager to the cab driver – their hopes, dreams, zig-zagging through the hustle and bustle, the work demands and the need to make sense of everything at the same time. From the fake acccents adopted by the employees (Training anyone?) to the aspiration of a toilet cleaner working for the same organization. Different stratas of the society and the ability of the BPO Sector to give many such people the right to dream and want to make something of their lives.
The stories of Bangalore Calling are vivid and starkingly real. They bite you when you least expect them to and that is probably the defining feature of this collection. This is not a piece of America – the BPO/Call Centre that is. It is a slice of life as depicted in the book, rightly so. The book goes deeper than what is seen on the Outsourcing surfacing and may be that is the reason why I enjoyed reading the book besides the fact that I could relate to every story.
Bangalore Calling is a book that must be read by all with perceptions about the call centres in our country and how they function. The author’s prose is crisp and to the point. She sure does not run in circles. Her plot is tight and thankfully it does not get dramatic at any point. The book is well-written for sure. It will sure help clear minds and introduce new perspectives. A great read for one.