Call Me Dan
R250 pp 270
Outsourced isn’t a dirty word in former investment banker Anish Trivedi’s debut novel Call Me Dan, even if it has a kitschy jacket that has call centre schizophrenia splashed all over.
After a booze-induced one-night stand outside the call centre, his protagonist who goes by the call name Dan, wakes up and “registers the presence of a warm naked body where his phone should be”. He gathers his clothes and slinks out without finding out who had been with.
The tardy story picks up after shy BPO supervisor Gujarati Gautam/Dan Joshi meets the first blonde in his life @ his workplace and summons up the courage to ask her out.
Gradually, Trivedi draws us into the lives of the protagonists. Joshi is a misanthropic vegetarian Gujarati who fantasises about a breakfast-in-bed romp with Jennifer Aniston. Michelle, his nagging Catholic girlfriend, has been waiting for him to pop the question, for years.
Trivedi uses an interesting device to make the reader understand the dual worlds his characters inhabit. During a conversation, what they say is followed by what they actually mean. A variation on the thought blurb, sample this:
‘I don’t sleep with any woman I want.’ Did I mention Jennifer Aniston?
‘You sleep with me.’
‘Hardly.’ In the last six months I’ve slept with Jennifer Aniston more often than I have with you.
‘What does that mean?’
‘It means I hardly sleep with you. When was the last time we did?’ And I bet you can’t answer that.
Apart from the curiosity about Daniel’s fate, the kind television viewers display once they begin following a character in a soap opera, the book also has a sense of place that grows on you. The Ghetto, the dark, smoky, chilled out bar you and I like to visit, evolves into a character on its own. The Science graduate chaiwalla outside the Grant Road station is fleshed out well.
For a breezy read, Call Me Dan manages to engage readers with a few characters that stay in your mind after you’ve put the novel down.