Arunabha Sengupta's collection of cricket stories - Bowled Over Stories Between the Covers - is now available from the J.W. McKenzee Cricket Bookshop, Epsom, Surrey.
The McKenzee bookshop is the only bookshop in England which is dedicated to cricket books. It stocks books by Neville Cardus, John Arlott, E.W. Swanton, Jack Fingleton and others.
Arunabha Sengupta's book is also available from their website:
The mystery cricket novella by Arunabha Sengupta - Gilbert Jessop Mystery - is now serialised in cricketcountry.com
The novel can be accessed from
Arunabha Sengupta is now writing for Zee India's web cricket channel cricketcountry.com
His author profile and articles can be accessed from
Excerpt from 'The Post Colonial Indian Novel in English' by Geetha Ganapathy-Doré, Cambridge Scholars Publishing; New edition edition (April 1, 2011)
(Page 121-122 Section 'Post Communist Time')
Much has been written by social science scholars all over the world about the attacks on the World Trade Centre on September 11,2011. Not less than six films have been shot in the Indian subcontinent (not to mention the collective documentary made by 11 directors and released on 11th September 2002 to which Mira Nair has contributed) about this event the scale of violence of which had been unprecedented. In order to condemn the madness that took over the terrorists Rushdie goes back to Shakespeare. Only one Indo-American author has devoted a whole novel to this event. Arunabha Sengupta's 'Big Apple 2 Bites' is a semi-autobiographical narrative (the novel's protagonist is Aniruddha Sensharma (aniruddha in Sanskrit means unstoppable) , he is an aikido adept like the author) which tells the story of love between a software consultant and his American colleague Allison Palmer whose micro-history is affected by these terrorist attacks. The
representation of an IT professional as a paradigmatic figure of the Indian abroad proposes a counterweight to the cliche of the miserable and alms seeking Indians portrayed in some Ango-Indian novels, notably Kim. But this diasporic hero has his national alter ego.
(Geetha Ganapathy-Dore has been Associate Professor of English in the Law, Political and Social Sciences Faculty of the University of Paris 13 since 1997.)
The FunAsia Interview - the complete script
Here is the complete script of the interview with FunAsia Radio 700 AM on 6th April.
Thanks to Sarveshi, the gracious and charming host of the show.
Sarveshi Shukla : In the next segment, we will be talking to someone who has broken all conventional boundaries and stood by what he feels.
I had once read – “We are individually multiple..” – I can say I have seen these multiple individualities in this one person…
I came to know him through an internal magazine circulated in a US based IT company. The magazine had published an article about a person who was not restricted by the perimeters of his job. Apart from having a successful career an IT, he had by then authored 2 books which had been critically acclaimed. I was intrigued. And I reached out to him. And he responded and I have since then had a chance to know him through his works and on a personal level. So here people, I have Mr. Arunabha Sengupta, live with us from Baden, Switzerland. Welcome to the airwaves of FunAsia Radio, 700 AM sir.
Arunabha Sengupta – Thank you Sarveshi, I am glad to join you. To give you an idea of how glad I am, let me tell you that it is two o’clock in the morning here in Switzerland and I am up just to speak to you.
SS- That should not be a problem for you since I know you are an early riser.
AS – Sarveshi, five thirty in the morning is early. Two o’clock is still late.
SS – So to begin with I would like to congratulate you on the success of your latest work, your book The Best Seller.
AS – Thank you. As an independent author, it had been with a touch of irony that I had named my new book The Best Seller. In the modern day, unless you have the blessings of a publishing monolith and their marketing resources with media gimmicks, you generally tend to wind up at the bottom of the pile regardless of the quality of writing. However, Foreword Clarion Reviews, one of the most respected reviewers, gave it the maximum rating with some excellent comments and I found that it was living up to its name in the Amazon marketplace – especially on Kindle. It is topping the Best Seller charts in a couple of select categories. A couple of articles about me in the Commonwealth Literature journals in India and France around this time have also helped the sales.
SS– …..Please tell our audience abt the premise of this book and how you arrived at this story. What led to it?
AS – The novel is set in Amsterdam and the action is played out with the Financial Crisis as the backdrop. It is also about a struggling author. He takes on a number of professions to make ends meet - including investigative journalism, teaching tai chi. He also acts as a ghost blogger for a linguistically challenged Vice President of a multinational bank. The action takes off when he impersonates a consultant friend during a financial crisis conference. He paraphrases Indian philosophy and is hailed as a rising thinker on economics.
How I wrote this story, I personally arrived in Amsterdam with my family in 2009, when the crisis was closing all possible businesses – and I have had first-hand experience of living under the constant shadow of the financial crisis looming over the scene. A person can live in fear of a disaster for a limited period of time after which he has to either philosophize or laugh about the situation. To me the ideal reaction was humor, to write about all the different farcical ways the world reacts to both booms and busts in the present day.
SS–I have been fortunate to have read all your published works and I have observed how your writings reflect in some way your journey through the IT industry. So how close are all your protagonists to you?
AS – I believe any author writing realistic fiction borrows a lot of the material from his or her own life. So, most of what I have documented in my writings have been extrapolations of my experiences. Built on the experiences to make it fictional. Sometimes I have to tone it down, because the truth about some of the corporate circus can be difficult to digest for the readers even in fictional form. A lot of the events depicted in most of the books have happened to me. Some of the reactions of my protagonists are the ways I have reacted to situations or the ways I wish I had.
In every book there is a dimension of reality, where my experiences are portrayed through the protagonist and a dimension of fiction where the story is built upon these experiences. The Best Seller, for example, has a lot of funny and not so funny experiences which have taken place in the last few years of my life – but a lot of it is fiction as well.
In these changing times, the IT industry is as much a part of modern day India and the world as any other profession. Previously Mulk Raj Anand, RK Narayan wrote about the farmers, government clerks the common man of earlier days … It makes sense to write about the IT industry now since it has such an impact on the landscape of the common man. And it also makes sense for such stories to be written by an insider.
SS – Absolutely, and there are very few people in the industry who have such a talent for writing. I have noticed that Aikido has also been a strong aspect of your writing. So tell us little bit abt this art form and how it has such an influence on you as a person and in your writing
AS – As with writing, Aikido is a passion for me. For those who are not aware, it is a Japanese martial art. I have been training in this art for more than 14 years and am a black belt. To put things in perspective, I have a professional certification called Six Sigma black belt which took just a three month effort on my part, but in Aikido I have to get a black belt after training for a decade.. As in any Japanese art, it becomes a way of life. There is a philosophy behind the art which determines the ways I act and take decisions in real life.
Much of Aikido is about a continuous natural flow, which I hope is reflected in my writings. My second novel, Big Apple 2 Bites, has Aikido as a very important dimension in the storyline
SS - Big Apple 2 Bites, for our listeners, was Arunabha Sengupta’s second novel and one of the best novels to be written about the 9/11. I thoroughly enjoyed it, as I am enjoying the current novel – The Best Seller. Another part of your writing is about Cricket.. I have also read your short stories which had cricket as the underlying common thread and you weaved such great stories around it on various themes… So am sure all our audience here would be interested in knowing how has the World cup 2011 journey been for you? What are your thoughts?
AS – The World Cup was amazing. I was watching the final in an Irish Pub in Zurich, one of the very few places in Switzerland where you can watch cricket on TV. Soon became a little India in its own way. And with each stroke of Dhoni and Gambhir, the crowd grew louder. People were wondering what was going on in the corner, because the rest of the screens were showing football and rugby and very few people knew cricket was being played.
While no one is happier than me at the success of the Indian cricket team, it is also somewhat alarming for me to see the amount of obsession and fanaticism about the game has reached such a stage that losing is scarcely an option for the Indian team any more. One false step means their being put on the defendant’s box and their failures scruitinised by everyone in multiple TV channels, websites and social media. I would like to remind everyone that much as we want the success of our team, it is the dignity with which we bear defeats as well that makes us true sports fans. The gods that we create on the cricket field are very mortal, and along with their talent and dedication, they have their flaws and frailties. They already play with the pressure of a billion expectant fans. It would make it easy for them if we reacted less radically and stopped ourselves from criticizing every move, every action when they have a bad day in office.
SS - Very true. It is important to remember that the gods we create are human as well. We will be going in for a break soon, and before that I would want you tell our audience about various mediums of buying this book and the others, Best Seller and Big Apple 2 Bites and Labyrinth. … And I must say that it’s great to see the sales going great through Amazon and you also have a Kindle version of your book.
AS – The book is available on Amazon.com. If you search Financial Crisis Best Sellers, it is right there among the top three. You can also search with my last name – Sengupta – with the easily remembered title of the book, The Best Seller. The Kindle e-Reader edition is selling in good numbers. So, if you are interested, please go online and click away.
SS– We will be going in for a short commercial break now. With us we have Mr. Arunabha Sengupta, writer, aikido black belt, cricket blogger and when we come back he is going to talk about someone very special to him … and also very special to all the Indians around the world. When we come back, we will be discussing about Sachin Tendulkar. So do stay tuned.
Welcome back to FunAsia Radio, we have with us Mr. Arunabha Sengupta. My next question is about making gods of players we admire. And speaking of gods, of course you have written some wonderful articles about The God .. Sachin Tendulkar …
AS –I do have a blog on cricket which is visited by more than 25000 people. Sachin Tendulkar features in my writings – as he does in my life. As a young Indian growing up in the nineties, as the country was entering globalization trying to make a mark on the map of the world, we could not have a better icon to look up to. He is synonymous with emerging India, boom time India – proving that we can be at the very top of the world, the best at what we can do. He has carried the hopes and dreams of billions, has conquered all peaks in the cricketing world while living very humbly and what surprises me is that even now is filled with the motivation to go out and play for the country. When he runs after the ball, it is like a 18 year old. I have realized recently, that I started following his exploits when he was 15 and I was 15 … and I have not known adult life without Sachin Tendulkar trotting out to bat at number four for India in Tests and opening the innings in the One Day Internationals. The day he decides to quit millions of Indians will start walking alone. A thought many of us don’t want to think.
SS - Very true. I have read your pieces on Sachin Tendulkar and everyone will identify with them, and will agree with them. I am so glad we could actually win the world cup and Sachin had been such an integral part … and everyone in the team said that Sachin had been carrying the burden for 21 years and now they wanted to take it forwad,
AS - Everyone said that they had done it for Sachin. And for someone as young as Virat Kohli to say something as mature as what you just mentioned – about him having carried the burden for 21 years and now it being the turn of team members to carry him, shows us exactly the stature of the man. It was a touching moment.
SS -Absolutely Now, before you leave, is there any parting thought and if you would like to share with our listeners
AS- I am not the sort of person very comfortable with advising others. However, I would like to say that life has a lot to offer. And just as you had introduced me as someone who has not been bound by parameters, I thought I would be more happy with writing, so I continued writing. So, if you have a passion, the best thing to do is to follow it.
SS - That was very well put. And this was the first thing you had told me in our very first conversation and is always at the back of my mind. Today, if anything motivates me to come here after my regular work and do a radio show, it is the memory of those words. We need to follow our passions if we are to live. Thanks for joining us and on behalf of FunAsia we wish you success and hope to read more of your works.
Thanks once again Arunabha for taking some time out of your schedule and chatting with us… On behalf of FunAsia Radio, I wish you success and we look forward to reading more of your works ….
This is an article from The Critical Endeavour - Vol. XV (June 2009), pp.22-33
“The Software Professional in Indian English Fiction”
Shyamala A. Narayan
The novel is concerned primarily with social issues. Indian English novelists, including the “Big Three” (Anand, Narayan and Raja Rao) and Khushwant Singh, Manohar Malgonkar, Kamala Markandaya, Nayantara Sahgal, Arun Joshi and Chaman Nahal wrote about the society of their time — common concerns included the village, Indian conditions like arranged marriages, caste and untouchability, plantation labour and the class struggle. They presented the India of holy men (Narayan’s The Guide, Bhabani Bhattacharya’s He Who Rides a Tiger) and Maharajas (Manohar Malgonkar’s The Princes is the best example). Or they present East-West encounter in various modes – the philosophical in Raja Rao’s The Serpent and the Rope, the comic in Anurag Mathur’s The Inscrutable Americans. Young novelists of the twenty-first century depict a very different kind of society, they describe the section of society they know at first hand. They write about life in the IITs and IIMs, the experiences of young MBAs when they start working, software professionals, call centres, matrimonial websites and twenty-twenty cricket.
Chetan Bhagat’s best-selling novel, Five Point Someone: What not to do at IIT (2004) presents the life of three young men who join the Indian Institute of Technology, after tough competition. We get a good account of their life as students, their obsession with girls, and the pressure to do well. Above Average, Amitabha Bagchi’s first novel, is also the story of a young man who joins IIT. We get a good picture of the extra-curricular activities, but also of the importance given to grades. The novel is not just about the years at IIT, it captures the grind of attending special coaching classes, and the excitement of being selected, and later follows up the fate of Arindam, the narrator, and his close friends at IIT who come from diverse socio-economic backgrounds. Mediocre but Arrogant by Abhijit Bhaduri and Joker in the Pack: An Irreverent View of Life at IIMs by Ritesh Sharma and Neeraj Pahlajani are about management students. The ground realities when they take up a job, especially in rural India, are a source of humour in novels like Manreet Sodhi Someshwar’s Earning the Laundry Stripes – A Woman’s Adventures in Hindustan Lever’s All-Boys Sales Club. The BPO industry, with the growing number of well paid ‘Cyber Coolies’ (a term popularised by the Delhi University academic Harish Trivedi) provides the setting for Chetan Bhagat’s second novel, One Night @ the Call Centre and Neelesh Misra’s Once Upon a Timezone. Priyo Ghosh’s You are Fired and Arunabha Sengupta’s Labyrinth: A Novel (2004) and Big Apple Two Bites (2007) deal with the IT boom of the last decade. Sengupta’s collection of short stories, Bowled Over (2004) is centred around cricket. The Indian obsession with cricket is the source of humour in The Zoya Factor by Anuja Chauhan. Everyone (except the Indian captain) believes that the twenty-seven-year-old Zoya, working in an advertising firm, is a lucky mascot for the Indian cricket team; if she breakfasts with the team, they cannot lose that day. Tuhin A. Sinha’s debut novel That Thing Called Love is set in Bombay, and has three characters in search of love and marriage; the irony is that Mayank, Anil and Vishal are all employed by a matrimonial website, that modern innovation to facilitate arranged marriages. All these novels are written with an Indian readership in view, and publishers like Rupa and HarperCollins India have realized the potential of this market. The Indian ambience and details of day-to-life are recreated authentically, and the wit is always enjoyable. Many of these novels are simple entertainers, but some have a deeper significance, even though the mode is social comedy. The three novels about software professionals fall into the second category.
Shankar Roy, the protagonist of Priyo Ghosh’s You are Fired, has a degree in information technology, and lives and works in Singapore. When his company is unable to land a lucrative contract because of a rival firm’s chicanery, he is fired. We are shown the sudden change in their lifestyle; he and his wife Anu have to move out of their big house into a poorer neighbourhood. Roy starts questioning the values of corporate life; instead of looking for another job, he steps in to help his neighbour, a Chinese widow whose store is running at a loss. He uses his knowledge of software and information technology to build it up into a thriving business. The interesting novel shows the value of the human bonds he establishes with his neighbours and friends.
Labyrinth is set during the last years of the twentieth century. Arunabha Sengupta (b.1973) has a Masters degree in Statistics from the Indian Statistical Institute, Calcutta, and “currently works for Cognizant Technology Solutions, and lives in Salt Lake, Kolkata.” Young Vikram Gupta, like many of his classmates, joins “Adieu Consultancy Solutions” straight from the campus. (The author himself worked in Tata Consultancy Services initially, and it is quite obvious that the labyrinthine software company is modelled on T.C.S.) Kiran Arothe is a senior software engineer, who has joined A.C.S. because they promised to post him in Bombay after the initial orientation.
A.C.S. is shown as a soul-less company, interested only in profits. When it comes to recruiting young people from college campuses, they paint a rosy picture of their future career; once they have been inducted, they are made to sign a three-year bond. But youngsters still leave, in spite of this. So the Vice President, Digambaram, and Dr Nageshwar, head of the Human Resource Department, get the brilliant idea of making the youngsters submit their original certificates. How Vikram manages to outwit the company, and get justice for Kiran Arothe, forms the plot of the novel.
Vikram Gupta is a refreshingly different protagonist; he does not suffer from any deep-seated anxiety, or worry about the clash between modernity and tradition in India, or any such highly philosophical predicament. His peculiar sense of humour, love of practical jokes and lack of reverence for authority enables him to take on the corporate might of the software giant. A.C.S. has an unduly high opinion of their training programme:
L1M12 was having their final class, “Effective Presentation.” That was the class where in eight hours the instructor was supposed to remove all the habits and mannerisms that people had developed for over two decades and make each and every one a fantastic speaker. They were even shown video recordings of speeches of great orators. Vikram’s batch had been shown speeches of John F. Kennedy, Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr.
He is the enfant terrible who asks embarrassing questions, “At the end of it all Vikram had asked whether there was any special reason for showing videos of speakers who had all been assassinated” (Labyrinth 196).
There is a wide variety of characters. There is no attempt to present all managers as villains and the young recruits as angels. The author understands the psychology of the young people well. Vishal Subherwal, the class representative, is a mild mannered young man; the managers, Digambaram and Nageshwar, realise that he can be easily bullied. Sathish, Vikram’s companion on the project for a British bank, is a really nasty person. He tries to curry favour with the bosses by showing his batchmates in a poor light. He is ready to do anything to impress those in power — in order to oblige Digambaram, Sathish steals the documents of his batchmate Vishal who is staying in Sathish’s house as a paying guest. Sathish attempts to blackmail Kiran Arothe into giving him a favourable appraisal report — “I think excellent in all the categories will be good enough” (266). He takes pleasure in tormenting his subordinates – he harasses a salesman who is trying to give him a credit card. The practical joke Vikram plays on him involving an imaginary credit card salesman links up with the main plot nicely.
Sengupta faithfully re-creates life in Chennai for an outsider. The Bengali Vikram’s dislike of everything in Chennai — the food, the climate and the work atmosphere, and his longing to get back to Calcutta to his mother and dog, is vividly portrayed. He has problems renting accommodation (and A.C.S. is unhelpful). The landlord S. Sundaramurthy’s daughter is “built on the lines of a more rotund sumo wrestler, and lived with her husband and daughter in the flat facing the one Vikram and Dharmesh had rented.” She keeps pestering him at every step. “Renting to bachelors is always a big problem” she says, so Vikram claims that he is going to get married soon. This leads to some hilarious situations in the novel, especially after Vikram meets and falls in love with a young girl whose sense of humour matches his own.
When Vikram gets on to a bus after an early morning run on Marina beach, he has only a ten-rupee note. Sengupta fully exploit the humour of the language problem faced by a Bengali engineer posted at Chennai, who has a “vast vocabulary of four words” in Tamil:
Something annoyed the conductor as he waved his arms and blurted out a torrent of Tamil. After some confused moments it dawned on Vikram that the irate man was demanding change. He shook his head and uttered "No change. Change ille.”
This seemed to annoy the conductor further. He said something in pure wholesome Tamil to some of the other passengers, some of whom smiled and nodded. Vikram felt that it would be very kind on the conductor's part to wait for some time and gather change and then ask him for the fare. He was debating how to put this in Tamil with his vast vocabulary of four words, when the conductor started making the dangerous gesture of pointing towards the door. (54)
A young girl on the bus buys a ticket for him; when “the damsel who had saved him from this distress” (55) tells him that her name is Vidya, he wonders, “Was she from the north? Should he have asked whether she had an ‘h’ in her name?” Sengupta is sensitive to the subtle difference in the transliteration of Indian names in north and south India, and makes this a source of humour. Vikram meets the girl again at a book exhibition.
“I am afraid, I have miraculously forgotten your name. The only thing I remember about it is that it was one of those which could have contained an ‘aitch’ or could have done without it.” Again it was evident to Vikram that in his excitement he was saying things which were not altogether coherent
“Er ... what exactly do you mean?”
“I mean ... well, what’s your name? Tell me once more and I won’t forget it again, I promise.”
“There. You see, is it V-I-D-Y-A or V-I-D-H-Y-A ?”
“The first spelling is correct.”
“Oh that’s good. I hate the way they put in ‘aitches’ here in the South. I was correct, wasn’t I? Your name could or couldn’t have contained an ‘aitch’. I am Vikram.”
“Hi,” Vidya said, between surprise and laughter. This young man seemed crazy, but he was definitely interesting. She looked at the books he had taken. “Ah, Bleak House. So, is it your love of Dickens that makes you so favourably sensitive to dropping ‘aitches’?”
“Well, no. It’s not the dropping I am in favour of. I am against the abominable way in which these people add ‘aitches’ when there is no need. The number of times they have added an ‘aitch’ to my Gupta makes me sick.” (56)
The romantic love between Vikram and Vidya adds to the readability of the story, with Vidya often acting as his accomplice in making A.C.S. look silly.
The novel presents a true picture of the Indian workplace – differences based on region are there, but the difference in terms of individual characteristics is greater. Kiran Arothe and Vikram develop close bonds based on their values, though they come from opposite regions of India, Maharashtra and Bengal. The lonely Kiran enjoys playing with his Tamil neighbour’s little toddler because he misses his own two year old daughter Kavita. And language is no bar:
Kalpana chattered on with her limited stock of words, which made no sense to Kiran who hummed a Marathi song that he and Sudha often sang to Kavita. A gentleman with a black Labrador sauntered towards them and Kalpana insisted on playing with the dog. The Labrador charmed by his little new friend got a bit overenthusiastic and licked Kalpana all over. Kiran scolded Kalpana in Marathi and the master scolded the dog in Tamil. “Nai”, observed Kalpana happily. (120)
Adieu Consultancy Solutions, like other Indian companies, bags many contracts worldwide to deal with the Y2K problem, and fulfils them by employing fresh graduates, who are over-worked and underpaid. The project leaders in A.C.S. very often do not know what is going on in their projects, and set unrealistic deadlines without caring for their workforce. We are told about Vishwanath, “He had six such projects that he supervised superficially. So what? Always say yes to the client. It was the likes of Kiran and Kuppunan who had to bear the brunt of haste and late nights after the promises were made.” Vishwanath has no qualms about posting Kiran Arothe to Detroit, while assuring him that he would be posted to Bombay shortly.
Sengupta’s second novel, Big Apple Two Bites features a more experienced professional who is sent to the U.S.A. as a consultant. His experiences during two visits to New York (the “Big Apple”) once before and once after 9/11, in 1998-1999 and three years later, are recounted in the second person, adding a touch of freshness to the narration. The first person (autobiographical) account is fairly common; here the novelist manages to sustain the original technique of referring to the protagonist in the second person right through the book:
And it is solitude that you crave. You want to get away from the crowd and open your new book. The one you bought the day before. The impromptu party in the Clifton apartment made it impossible for you to read it the previous evening. You dearly want to make up for lost time. (Big Apple Two Bites 5)
There is a lot of enjoyable humour, with a touch of poetic justice at the end, when the nasty Chiranjeet Kar is sacked for a misdemeanour committed by Sen’s friend Manish.
The higher management in the company seems to have grown even more unethical, regarding everything in terms of dollars. They have no qualms about dismissing hard working young engineers, once the project is over, they care only for their own advancement. The hero is one of eight software consultants from Technomind, India, sent to work for Transactional Solutions Inc. The Offshore Delivery Manager, Chiranjeet Kar, is typical of all that is wrong with the corporate world. He has recruited the hero, Aniruddha Sen Sharma, because he feels that his paper on Neural Networks will impress the client.
Sen, with a degree in higher mathematics from the Indian Statistical Institute, points out that Neural Networks can be useful only in certain situations, but Chiranjeet insists: “You have to use Neural Network in some way or the other. . . . You are going as a Quality Consultant and you have been sold to the client as someone who has published a paper on the use of Neural Networks on software. . .” (9-10). Sen’s proposed presentation to Transactional Solutions Inc. “based on solid analysis of true data” is reviewed by “the holy trinity of Swarnali, Ravi and Chiranjeet Kar in a tele-conference paid for by the client” and he is told to modify it. Kar refers often to “these market conditions” and “these days of rationalisation” to hint that Sen will lose his job if he does not oblige. “The resulting modified presentation is neither mathematically robust , nor statistically accurate and certainly not ethically upright. However, it manages to project Technomind as a market leader in a lot of ways, has more charts than a kindergarten drawing exhibition and more roadmaps than a globetrotter’s backpack” (31). Sen is left thinking about the “impending prostitution of the scientific art of Fermat and Euler that is about to follow” (32).
Sen calls his presentation “A load of dhop”, a Bangla word he finds hard to translate. He and his room-mate Aniket (another Bengali) “have had a philosophical discourse on the role dhop plays in the industry”, and the conclusions they reach are illustrated in the novel:
Dhop flows through the veins of the corporate world like sustaining lifeblood. It is like prana, like chi, the primordial cosmic force of the industry. Flow¬ing from all the levels of organisational hierarchy to oth¬ers. From superiors to subordinates, from middle manag¬ers to upper management, from upper management to the customers. As one progresses up the ladder of the corpo¬rate hoopla, one graduates to different levels of dhop. At the marketing stage, it reaches the hands of magicians, the artistic alchemists of dhop, those creative craftsmen who can metamorphose dhop from one form to another, extend and expand it to limitless proportions — ultimately performing that transformation, that black magic that con¬verts dhop into green-backed dollars. Akin to converting energy into matter. It is the miracle of one of these gurus of dhop that has made you travel across the world to try to create your own brand of dhop involving Neural Net-works. At the extreme top of the management, there are people like Chiranjeet Kar and Ravi .. . for whom life and dhop have lost the sense of duality, who live, be¬lieve and propagate dhop. (33)
Big Apple Two Bites shows the varied responses of Indian software professionals visiting America on deputation. in New York. Some grumble about the food and culture, others direct all their efforts towards saving money. Sen’s time in New York revolves around the Japanese martial art form Aikido, and an attractive American colleague, Allison Palmer. His American colleagues are individualized — while Bruce and Allison are warm and welcoming, others resent the Indians. Maureen says about Indians, “Well, what can people do? They don’t have enough to eat. . . So they eat whatever is available . . . dogs. . . jobs. . .” The novelist deals with great sensitivity with the issue of outsourcing:
Aniket . . . is a bright fellow, reduced by circumstances to eke out a living doing the quasi-clerical software stuff that is outsourced to the mysterious traditional eastern world by the land of opportunities. True, when you are in software you don’t exactly scrounge for a living. You get paid a lot. Maybe twice as much as a normal guy your age. However, you put in twice as many hours. Hours, long and preferably late, to impress the powers that be so that you are able to keep your job even as the great providing nation goes through a slowdown. (32-33)
These novels point to serious issues like the ethics of corporate management and the importance of human bonds, even as they depict the lives of software professionals. The language does not draw attention to itself, both Priyo Ghosh and Arunabha Sengupta are interested primarily in telling a story. The novels are confined entirely to urban life (in Singapore and New York) and metropolitan India; but no work can encompass the whole of India, and the software professional and the metropolis are as much a part of India as the farmer and the village. The important thing is that stereotypes, whether in terms of characters or situations, are avoided.
Bagchi, Amitabha. Above Average. New Delhi: HarperCollins Publishers India, 2007.
Bhaduri, Abhijit. Mediocre but Arrogant. New Delhi: 264pp Indialog, 2005.
Bhagat, Chetan. Five Point Someone: What not to do at IIT. New Delhi: Rupa, 2004.
——. One Night @ the Call Centre. New Delhi: Rupa, 2005.
Chauhan, Anuja. The Zoya Factor. New Delhi: HarperCollins Publishers India, 2008.
Ghosh, Priyo. You are Fired. Kolkata: Writers Workshop, 2005.
Misra, Neelesh. Once Upon a Timezone. New Delhi: HarperCollins, 2006.
Rajan, Rohithari. IIM Ganjdundwara. New Delhi: Indialog, 2007.
Sengupta, Arunabha. Big Apple Two Bites. Mumbai: Frog Books, 2007.
——. Labyrinth: A Novel. Calcutta: Writers Workshop, 2004.
Sharma, Ritesh and Neeraj Pahlajani. Joker in the Pack: An Irreverent View of Life at IIMs. New Delhi: Orient Paperbacks, 2007.
Sinha, Tuhin A. That Thing Called Love. New Delhi: Srishti, 2006.
Someshwar, Manreet Sodhi. Earning the Laundry Stripes – A Woman’s Adventures in Hindustan Lever’s All-Boys Sales Club. New Delhi: Rupa, 2006.
Arunabha Sengupta documents one man's journey to learn the difference between truth and fabrication in the fictional novel, "The Best Seller"
BADEN, Switzerland (MMD Newswire) April 19, 2011 -- Arunabha Sengupta uses his novel, "The Best Seller" (ISBN 145380398X) to comment on the corporate world as well as the financial crisis the entire world seems to be facing. He uses his own experiences in the corporate circus as well as other personal experiences, including his black belt in Aikido, to create the story of Sandeep Gupta.
Struggling author Sandeep Gupta dabbles in various professions to make ends meet while sending his manuscripts to uninterested publishers and agents everywhere. The dedicated tai chi student travels to Amsterdam for a seminar, where he also plans on hunting down agents for his book. In order to increase his chances for publication, he persuades his childhood friend, Pritam Mitra, a distinguished consultant, to joyride across Europe and leave Sandeep to parade around as him at a conference dealing with the global financial crisis.
Rather than preparing for the presentation, Sandeep relies on the teachings from an Indian philosophical text to make his presentation a success. Senior management is so impressed that they ask Sandeep to collaborate in the writing of a model solution to the crisis. He agrees and remains at the firm, impersonating his friend and preparing a paper on the crisis based on nothing but philosophy-laced fabrication. He fails to fit into the corporate world of the firm and teaches tai chi to his co-workers, screens raunchy Woody Allen films as team building exercises and uses the office stationery to continue sending his manuscript to publishers.
Sandeep's unusual antics attract the attention of Shruti, a doctorate student and talented writer, Simon, who writes about him in his blog and Dr. Roy, a psychiatrist interested in the effects of the Internet. In order to expedite the paper, the four meditate over the questions of the modern world in an Amsterdam coffee shop under a cloud of cannabis. The drug-inspired paper is heralded as a new age solution, creating more demands on Sandeep as he struggles to get his own life back, while searching for the truth in the false world full of manufactured corporate consent and noise.
In addition to the struggles Sandeep faces, Sengupta comments on corporate greed, jealousy, obsession, tai chi and love in "The Best Seller." He attempts to accurately portray the rat race nature of life and how easy it can be for one to get swept up in the antics. He believes that his novel deals with a complex contemporary issue in a humorous, entertaining way.
"The Best Seller" is available for sale online at Amazon.com and other channels.
About the Author:
Arunabha Sengupta is an author who has lived and worked around the globe. He is married and lives in Switzerland with his wife and daughter. He is a black belt in Aikido, and has worked as a process consultant. Hence, he is familiar to the world of martial arts and the corporate environment that form the bulwark of his current novel. He has written two other novels, "Labyrinth: A Novel about the Software Industry" and "Big Apple 2 Bites: A Novel of Love, 9/11 and Aikido."
Extract from Commonwealth Essays and Studies Journal (volume 31 No 2) published by Societe d'Etude des Pays du Commonwealth from Bouteque de Cahiers-bookshop of the Press Sorbonne Nouvelle, 8 rue de la Sorbonne, 75005 Paris.
In it, eminent lietrary reviewer Shyamala A. Narayan has the following to say in her article about Recent Trends in Indian English Fiction:
Three novels about software professionals stand out:
Arunabha Sengupta’s Labyrinth and Big Apple Two Bites , and Priyo Ghosh’s You are Fired .
Shankar Roy, the protagonist of You are Fired, has a degree in information technology, and lives and works in Singapore. When his company is unable to land a lucrative contract because of a rival firm’s chicanery, he is fired. We are shown the sudden change in their lifestyle; he and his wife Anu have to move out of their big house into a poorer neighbourhood. Roy starts questioning the values of corporate life; instead of looking for another job, he steps in to help his neighbour, a Chinese widow whose store is running at a loss. He uses his knowledge of software and information technology to build it up into a thriving business.
Labyrinth shows two brilliant engineering graduates caught in the labyrinth of a huge software company “Adieu Consultancy Solutions” (modelled on Tata Consultancy Services).
Kiran Arothe is a senior software engineer, who has joined A.C.S. because they promised to post him in Bombay after the initial orientation. A.C.S. is shown as a soul-less company, interested only in profits. When it comes to recruiting young people like Vikram Gupta from college campuses, they paint a rosy picture of their future career; once they have been inducted, they are made to sign a three-year bond. But youngsters still leave, in spite of this. So the Vice President, Digambaram, and Dr Nageshwar, head of the Human Resource Department, get the brilliant idea of making the youngsters submit their original certificates. How Vikram manages to outwit the company, and get justice for Kiran Arothe, forms the plot of the novel.
Vikram Gupta is a refreshingly different protagonist; he does not suffer from any deep-seated anxiety, or worry about the clash between modernity and tradition in India, his concerns are more mundane. The Bengali Vikram dislikes everything in Chennai — the food, the climate and the work atmosphere. His longing to return to Calcutta, to his mother and dog, is vividly portrayed. He has problems renting accommodation (and A.C.S. is unhelpful).
“Renting to bachelors is always a big problem” says the landlord’s daughter, so Vikram claims that he is going to get married soon.
This leads to some hilarious situations in the novel, especially after Vikram meets and falls in love with a young girl whose sense of humour matches his own. There is a wide variety of characters. There is no attempt to present all managers as villains and the young recruits as angels.
Sengupta’s second novel, Big Apple Two Bites features a more experienced software professional who is sent to the U.S.A. as a consultant. His two visits to New York (the “Big Apple”) in 2001 and three years later, are recounted in the second person, adding a touch of freshness to the narration. The first person (autobiographical) account is fairly common; here the novelist manages to sustain the technique of referring to the protagonist in the second person right through the book:
And it is solitude that you crave. You want to get away from the crowd and open your new book. The one you bought the day before. The impromptu party in the Clifton apartment made it impossible for you to read it the previous evening. You dearly want to make up for lost time. (Big Apple Two Bites 5)
The higher management in the software company seems to have grown even more unethical, regarding everything in terms of dollars. They have no qualms about dismissing hard working young engineers, once the project is over, they care only for their own advancement.
Big Apple Two Bites shows the varied responses of Indian professionals visiting America. Some grumble about the food and culture, others direct all their efforts towards saving money.
Sen’s time in New York revolves around the Japanese martial art form Aikido, and an attractive colleague, Allison Palmer. His American colleagues are individualized — while Bruce and Allison are warm and welcoming, others resent the Indians. Maureen says about Indians, “You have a dog? I thought they ate dogs in India ... Well, what can people do? They don’t have enough to eat. . . So they eat whatever is available . . . dogs. . . jobs. . .”
The novelist deals with great sensitivity with the issue of outsourcing, an issue which is of concern to many in India.
Rated 5 stars
Sandeep Gupta—as befits the popular image of a writer—has held a variety of jobs, the most recent being the ghost blogger for a multinational bank's vice president. He lives in Amsterdam, studies and practices tai chi for stress relief, and as a budding novelist, is trying to goad his procrastinating publisher into getting his first novel printed and distributed.
While pondering the direction his life should take—corporate drone or starving artist—he returns to India to renew his work visa, meets a very interesting woman named Shruti, heeds his tai chi teacher's words of wisdom, impersonates his friend Pritam Mitra at a business conference, and falls in love.
HMH Bank employee Simon van der Wiel provides a cyber-narrative in his Simple Simon blog of the goings-on during Sandeep's imposture of his friend. Sandeep-as-Pritam improvises a presentation based on the Bhagavad Gita at the conference and finds himself on the rise as an innovative thinker on economics. Pritam, meanwhile, is taking a tour of Europe with the latest object of his affections and figuratively stumbles on a new job and outlook on life. As if that weren't enough, Sandeep acquires a cyber-stalker.
Sandeep is a very busy man.
The bons mots fly thick and fast through the pages of this contemporary novel, which pokes loving fun at corporate culture, techno-gadgets in daily life, romance, traditional Indian customs, geekdom, and a handful of other themes. The wonder of it all is that Sengupta keeps all the threads interwoven in a densely attractive word tapestry which is also very, very funny. Logophiles will be snickering at all the literary in-jokes as well as the pop-culture references.
At 681 pages, The Best Seller is certainly a hefty tome, but the book's size should in no way intimidate the interested reader. Sengupta has delivered a finely tempered blade of a book that takes artful slices at several pretentious elements of modern life. In its scope and length, it's reminiscent of Neal Stephenson's Snow Crash, another excellent novel. The Best Seller deserves the attention to match its title.
January 7, 2011
Arunabha Sengupta’s second novel Big Apple Two Bites shows the varied responses of Indian software professionals on deputation in New York. Some grumble about the food and culture, others direct all their efforts towards saving money.
His fi rst novel The Labyrinth (2004) presented young software engineers on their fi rst job in Chennai. Here a more experienced professional is sent to New York as a consultant on a project, once before and once after 9/11.
Sen’s time in New York revolves around the Japanese martial art form Aikido, and an attractive colleague, Allison Palmer.
The novelist deals with great sensitivity with the issues of 9/11, the loss of jobs in the software sector, and disillusion with the corporate environment.
There is a lot of enjoyable humour. The entire book is written in the second person, adding a touch of freshness to the narrative.