Wednesday, April 16, 2008

If God was a Banker

Two months before I start my career in a multi-national bank, just out of XLRI with a fin specialization, a long journey to Chennai and back… why wouldn’t I pick up a book called “If God was a Banker”? But several long hours later, when I finally forced myself to finish this book, I was left deeply disappointed.

I chose to read this book because I absolutely love Chetan Bhagat’s writing. Surprisingly, not only is the publisher the same, the author is from a similar background, as well. The books look alike, the font is the same too. What I expected from the book were some insights in to the author’s profession, coupled with a decent plot and some pleasant writing. But that was not to be.

The plot is like any typical hindi movie’s storyline. There is a hero, who is the epitome of good things. Then there is an anti-hero, who is everything a man should not be. There are other characters to fill in the gaps. And then, there is the God of banking. As usual the initial 95% of the book goes on to explain how evil goes unnoticed, but at the very end, everything unravels. The villain suffers, repents and gains forgiveness. Bluh. And in between all this is the theory from the introduction chapter of my Commercial Banking handout – how old banks functioned, liberalization, entry of foreign banks, innovation and sales. There was also a little from the several placement presentations I’ve been through – organizational structure, career growth and job descriptions.

What I expected from an author who is obviously accomplished in his field, was something that only experience could provide. But various painful stereotypes are flung at us throughout the book. A Tam Brahm called Swaminathan, influenced by early family tragedies, extremely poor, swears by filter coffee, reads The Hindu, extremely ethical, soft-spoken, shy with the fairer-sex, a teetotaler , exceptionally faithful. He does not take a single wrong step throughout the story… so ideal, that he becomes tremendously boring. On the other hand, the bad guy is Sundeep, overtly aggressive, steals ideas, gets sloshed at every occasion, flirtatious, disloyal, sleeps with everyone, unethical in all his ways. He does not take a single right step throughout the plot… so wicked, that he becomes extremely predictable. No shades of gray!

And such stereotypes don’t stop here. Relationship managers are always good looking women who are ready to cross any limits for their own benefit. Every woman in the book seems to be super-hot, with a great body and a willing mind to sleep with strange men. The secretaries always entertain their bosses in more ways than one. The good subordinates stick to the good guy, the bad ones unquestioningly try to bring Swami down. Most chapters end with lines that try to revive interest. Too many names right in between kept me confused. And way too much drama in some parts!

The characters have no depth, the story has no twists and even after I finished the book, I failed to understand the title. “If God was a banker…” Other than being a line in the book, I don’t see why it should don the cover. Who is the hero here? Sundeep, Swami or Aditya? Was Aditya that important that the book is named after him? Or is the title just a way to grab some attention?

I liked the simplicity of the narrative, the pace as well. Ravi Subramanian has given some thought into timing of the entire story too. But I still don’t think it’s worth a purchase. MBA aspirants and banking amateurs might find it interesting, but beware of its flaws.

Thanks to this book, I did have an interesting conversation with a guy next to me on my return journey. But he wasn’t that good looking, so… naah! Definitely not worth it!


Unknown said...

Hmm...what guy is this??

Igirit said...

You absolutely love Chetan Bhagat's writing?

Why? What for? What about his so-called writing do you like?

His complete lack of style, depth and coherence in sentences? His idea of a plot that is mere narrative - a useless, adolescent and exaggerated one; or his belief that a mere translation of everyday conversations - however, mundane- makes for good writing? His cliched characterisation, or his obvious climaxes? His deplorable construction?

What about him do you like? Please, please tell me.

Igirit said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
SuperMus said...

Chetan Bhagat is not the world's best author, his words don't take me into a different world! But that is what I like about him, he keeps it simple and writes about credible people... I find his books enjoyable, well paced and well written. No fancy stories, no brilliant characterization.. sometimes just a different view of mundane situations can be inspiring! I identify with his subjects and in all his 3 books, I've always wanted to know how the book ends.. I've never been able to keep it down. I like the fact that there has never been a "happily ever after" end, he manages to keep it down to earth. I like Chetan Bhagat because his books are fresh, interesting and different..