If you have read Dork and enjoyed it, pause. If you feel like picking up Dork and reading it again, and do not want to read it because it reminds you of lemon rice served in an Udupi hotel next door, here is a solution: you could pick up the sequel, God Save the Dork. However, the question is: how much is enough? Do you need another deadpan Pink Panther-type series of a bumbling consultant constantly speaking to his diary? If the answer is yes, then pick up this book. If not, just chill and read something more serious and morbid, possibly Michael Lewis and his analysis of greedy bankers.
We know that the well-known problem of a successful and good first book is that there is a danger of a second book and subsequent books. How many writers can resist the temptation to capitalise on, and possibly monetise, their glory? We only have one Harper Lee in this world who stopped at one Pulitzer prize for her novel, without getting ambitious about a Nobel. Sidin Vadukut is, unfortunately, made of sterner stuff. He ad-ventures into a sequel to tell us about the further ventures of Robert “Einsteen” Verghese.
In the olden days of forex controls (even on the current account) and when credit cards were valid only in India and Nepal, it was a novelty to shoot local-language movies in exotic locations like Singapore and show some skyscrapers. That was attraction enough for us to visit the movie hall. Vadukut is possibly not that old. No, a person who claims to have studied accounting in my class in the early part of last decade could not be my contemporary. Nevertheless, in this rendering of Dork, he transports us to London just for the heck of it and takes us through all the museums, including Madame Tussauds where he installs an imaginary Mohanlal wax statue with Dhoti. While there is some merit in internationalising the very Malayalee/Indian experience, this is very much an Indian book with an Indian sense of humour — so setting the story in London has little relevance apart from the fact that it is a very nice city that Vadukut confesses he vows to love as long as his visa is valid.
This book continues the same spirit of the first book, poking fun at the inane advice offered by consultants who use jargon that sounds profound.
Robin’s presentation to a set of interns, for instance, has a series that talks about strategy — starting with Strategy and You, Strategy From the Heart and leading all the way up to Strategy is more than Just Jargon: Brainstorming for a Deliverable-Critical Priority Framework. Vadukut is, of course, brilliant in weaving the story, and also leaving bits and pieces to be picked up later — something that is needed to hold a long narrative together. Like the stuff that Robin packs into the hair dryer out of frustration, which is later operated by his girlfriend, Gouri, on a surprise visit. He is also great at piecing together situational humour and being politically incorrect by pulling in Malayalees, Chinese, Mohanlal (a subset of Malayalees but not treated as such) and Chiranjeevi the Telugu superstar through Sugandh the IT professional. He does not pull punches either: “Gouri called again. And this time I picked up (Otherwise she will keep calling. Sometimes she is like HDFC Bank Credit Card Department)”.
The problem with this rendering is that Vadukut has become consistent and predictable. This may be good for quarterly corporate results, but it’s possibly a bad thing for humour. By the time you read the book, you can be sure that every time he has to speak in public, Robert will forget to unclip his collar mike and head for the toilet, you know that every few pages Vadukut’s protagonist will have a gastronomical episode causing a stink all around, and every time he appears to be doing well he will goof on a small scale, and every time he goofs up he is saved by some stroke of luck.
Throughout the book, Robin notes down sick jokes that even he thinks are not worth remembering. Sample this one:
Q: Why did Keanu Reeves see stars and cows and dogs all around him?
A: Because he was stuck in the BCG Matrix!
Clearly the trick does not seem to be working any longer. In fact I could put a counter to Vadukut:
Q: What is common to Sidin Vadukut and Rujuta Diwekar?
A: Both of them write sequels that appear novel, say almost the same things as the first, and are dedicated to the same people who got the prequels. It is time that Vadukut found more friends and better books to dedicate.
GOD SAVE THE DORK Sidin Vadukut Penguin 242 pages; Rs 199