Book #6 – A book you own but have never read before – One Night at the Call Center by Chetan Bhagat
Genre: Young Adult
One of my resolutions this year is to read more and more books by Indian authors which I am ashamed to say, I hardly read. Chetan Bhagat’s One Night at the Call Center, that had been lying unread in my bookcase for the longest time, was my first pick. Bhagat’s books have taken India by storm. But, let me just prick the Bhagatian bubble and say it. I don’t understand what the big hype surrounding his books is about. Admittedly, this is my first read by this author and might not have been the ideal choice to start off with but still.
Though, I must say, some of the movies based on his books have been better translated on screen. I enjoyed watching Three Idiots based on Five Point Someone, Bhagat’s first novel. The 3 Mistakes of my Life was converted visually into Kai Po Che which was a good film. Also, 2 States based on 2 States: The Story of my Marriage was kind of fun to watch, albeit dragging in some bits. The first two had good empowering story lines and I just might see myself reading these books to see if the movies were better or the books themselves.
However, Hello based on One Night at the Call Center was just an absolute disaster. The premise of this story goes through incidents that happen in one night at a call center. Six people who work in the night shift of a call center in India are all going through problems of their own. One particular night, they receive a very unusual phone call…..from none other than God Himself.
I don’t know where to really begin with reviewing this book. I really have mixed or rather, no feelings about this one. I liked how Bhagat started off before the beginning of this book by asking the reader to list one thing that a) you fear, b) makes you angry and c) you don’t like about yourself. I thought to myself, “Hmmm, I think this book is going to be interesting.”
The story highlights the problems that the youth of India working in call centers (or BPO’s) face – low wages, irate customers, greedy political bosses, no prospects of growth et cetera whilst also tackling issues that are predominantly increasing like arranged marriages with a “rich, well-settled NRI boy in America”, infidelity, casting-couch syndrome, ill-effects of globalization, the MTV pop-culture that has taken over the world, loss of nationalism and how Westernization has made everything about brands, elaborate lifestyles, eating unhealthy food, corruption of languages et cetera.
I wasn’t convinced entirely by this book. I didn’t like the way racism was tackled. Sure, it’s a fact that perfectly decent, hardworking people in call centers have a very tough time from their Western callers who often indulge in shameless name-calling but that just didn’t make it justifiable to retaliate and vent out in the same way.
This pity-party went on for 214 pages until God called and decided to intervene. This was a very interesting element but not cleverly written. It could have been a life-changing, moving experience causing you to rethink your own existence but it wasn’t. Sorry, just didn’t feel it.
I felt the rest of the book was a typical masala mix (a mixture of Indian spices). The sudden burst of courage that the six churned up to speak up against their evil boss and save their dying company from doom using some blackmail, some good ol’ fashioned Bollywood thappads and mukkas (slaps and punches) and then turning their own lives around for the better and proving themselves- all within a matter of a couple of hours aptly at the rise of dawn.
Again, this book didn’t do much for me. I wish the Indian empowerment element was handled in a better way. I would have loved to be inspired, to put down the book and think about it deeply afterwards but this was sadly lacking.
However, the good parts of the book were:
1. “You close your eyes for three minutes. Think about what you really want and what you need to change in your life to get it. Then, once you get out of here, act on those changes.”
2. “For once you taste failure, you have no fear.”
3. “The voice is easy to ignore – because you are distracted or busy or just too comfortable in life. Go on, ignore it – until you get tangled in your own web of comfort. And then you reach a point like today, where life brings you to a dead end, and there is nothing ahead but a dark hole.”
Book Rating: 2 stars out of 5.