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It’s not always that authors send you their books to be reviewed. So when Vivek Kumar Agarwal sent his book “Love, Me and Bullshit” to be reviewed I was excited. The book is about Romal who is a 20 something young man chasing after the IIM (Indian Institute of Management) dream. In his quest to get into the portals of one of the most premier management institutes in India, life takes Romal on a ride through girls, alcohol, friendships and family troubles.
What I liked about the book is that through Romal we see how competitive and tough IIM exams are. We also see life as an IIM student and the kind of aspirations students have once they finish the course. The humor is funny in places and Agarwal’s philosophical thoughts come across as quite interesting many times. Romal’s depression, frustration at failures and emotional pain is also quite vivid and palpable at times.
However, there is a lot that is wanting in this book. To begin with, the grammar begs straightening out and even included in some cases. Sentences like “They did use to hint that I would drift away from them” don’t make sense. Neither do sentences like “My friends had to bear with it. My usage of English and ghusedofying words of the day in our conversations.” I am all for the usage of local words in an English language book but there is a way in which we use them. Most importantly make the meaning clear through an explanation in brackets or in some other manner.
Romal is a man low on self-esteem, confidence and happiness. He reminded me very much of Gopal from Chetan Bhagat’s Revolution 2020. The same distress, the same trysts with girls, the same mistrust of oneself. Agarwal has mentioned in the beginning that Bhagat was his inspiration to write and I can see more than a little similarity. Agarwal has tried to write in the same vein, by keeping the language extremely simple, rather colloquial and spoken and heavily leaning on the North Indian language, Hindi. He has included all the necessary elements that seem to make a book popular here in India in recent times – the story being set in a campus, a group of friends, a romance, some four letter words, dreams and hopes and a big incident or two.
While Bhagat has something of a plot going for him, I don’t see much of that here. Of course, a book does not have to have a plot set in cement; it can still be a glorious read even if it just follows the lives of people within. But here, I feel the book fairly rambles in more than a few places. If only Agarwal had spiced it up a little more with perhaps better writing or characters the book would have been a far better read. Romal remains lost and dazed as he stumbles through tests, relationships and jobs, his dreary sense of self-worth only serving to chain him down. To add to the maddening melee of Romal’s circular thinking, Agarwal’s incessant use of “I mean” in every third sentence got under my skin. He even admits it,
“If you are thinking there are way too many of them, ‘I mean’ I mean, just wait a little. You will get used to them.”
I couldn’t. Get used to them, I mean.
I saw flashes of genuine feeling and automatically better writing in the passages where Romal describes his family and where he realizes he would have to support his family now that his father had a heart attack. Yet, I shut the book feeling like I had just run through a maze of streets only to arrive at a road that was not the one I was looking for. In other words, I felt incomplete. I didn’t get the feeling that I had finished reading the book. Maybe that’s the way Romal felt in the end. Incomplete. Maybe I should see it as a case of writing-mirrors-the-feeling. In which case, the book is brilliant since it made me feel as confused as Romal.
Verdict: Please read and clear the doubts in my head
PS: A note of thanks to Vivek for sending me his book.