Created on Friday, 17 June 2011 00:00
Written by Gillian Sum
Journalist Manu Joseph takes readers onto the streets of Mumbai with his book 'Serious Men' through the eyes of witty commoner, Ayyan Mani.
The story is told through Ayyan Mani, a smart man seemingly doomed to an impoverished life, due to his birth at the bottom few rungs of the caste system, but who somewhat rises above his counterparts with his job as a personal assistant to elite and privileged astronomer Arvind Acharya at the Institute of Theory and Research.
Without outright complaints or grumbling, he reveals an intense distaste and helplessness for his place at the bottom of the pyramid despite his understanding and an impressive mastery of the politics within the privileged group. But rather than resigning to his fate, the loving yet honestly lustful father entertains himself by ingeniously changing his family's future through a series of mistruths and careful manipulations. His accomplice? His ten-year-old son, Adi.
Journalist and comic novelist Manu Joseph illustrates the great disparity of the people of Mumbai with humour and style and entertains by his vivid, clear descriptions alone: "Ayyan Mani's thick black hair was combed sideways and parted by a careless broken line, like the borders the British used to draw between two hostile neighbours. His eyes were keen and knowing. A healthy moustache sheltered a perpetual smile. A dark tidy man, but somehow inexpensive."
What is even more so impressive is his clever, subtle commentary of the long-banished caste system and its unfairness, as well as the mental turmoil intellectual females have to overcome. All these are made possible only through Ayyan Mani, who was cleverly portrayed as a disinterested character – perhaps due to his role as a man in the society – in the unbalanced gender roles as well as one smart yet made helpless due to his circumstances.
This is one great book that would not only shed great insight on the culture and politics of India's society – especially helpful if you deal with business from the BRIC country – but also one that is engaging and thought-provoking. You might also like: Resumes! Resumes! Resumes!
, What the Dog Saw
, Evolutionary Work