I like Indian writers. There is just something about their writing that I connect to and after reading an obscure review in an equally obscure newspaper about Karan Bajaj’s ‘Keep Off The Grass’ that I decided to read it. The prologue itself got me really excited and the rest of the books lived unto my expectations completely!
In a nutshell the story is about Samrat Ratan, a 25 yr old US born investment banker on Wall Street, who is dissatisfied with his job and thus enrolls in IIM so he can experience India and achieve happiness that eluded him in the US.
The story might come across as the usual ‘finding your roots ‘ type of a book but surprisingly it is not. The story is devoid of cliches, quite unpredictable as Karan Bajaj skillfully takes us on Samrat’s unique and bizarre journey in India. It is very insightful and it forces us(well at least me) to ask questions about the happiness in material things and the corporate world’s burgeoning competition. There are moments in the book in which existentialist questions do come up. Though this does not mean that the story is all about that. His style of writing is also very impressive- not very decorative but simple and easy to read and comprehend. Yet it does not come across as amateurish. One of my main fears was the use of too much management jargon because I may not be able to understand it because I am not familiar with it. However he has used that jargon minimally. He has also constructed the story well with each ending line of the chapter becoming the title of the next chapter.
The main character, Samrat Ratan, is a confused soul who is in a desperate search for things we all look for- mainly happiness. The other main characters are his two best friends in IIM, Shine Sarkar and Vinod Singh. Shine Sarkar’s theories and opinions on practically everything like marijuana or the nature of existence are quirky and interesting yet at times a bit depressing and cynical(but I usually like his ideas).His name ‘Shine Sarkar’ can be perceived as referring to the actual government who like the character can often be quite lazy and at times downright depraved. Also in the climax, his name can be drawn as a parallel to the fact that the government and those associated with it can always get way from any kind of trouble. Vinod Singh’s friendly, warm behavior an his patriotism are well carved and I just wished that there were more like him in India.
On the negative side, I think that the characters should have had more depth and description especially in terms of looks and past lives and behavior. There is also no main female characters-just rough sketches of them like Radha, Christine or Sandhya(although I am glad he has not written a stupidly mushy love story about Samrat falling in love and marrying an Indian girl as a sure means to happiness). His descriptions of India are not refreshingly new(except the Jaisalmer part of the book).
On the whole, this book is a good read with insightful thoughts and questions and a very surprising and unpredictable end. It is honestly written and is quite interesting. The book hovers between light and relatively heavy reading. It is definitely worth a read! 🙂