Dork:The Incredible Adventures of Robin ‘Einstein’ Verghese
Penguin n Rs 199 n pp 239
The protagonist of Dork, Robin ‘Einstein’ Verghese would probably see his diary as a gritty, realistic portrayal of the trials and tribulations of a cubicle-dweller. Einstein chronicles his life with searing honesty. No detail is too small (or too gross) to escape the pitiless searchlight of his self-analysis.
As one of the bottom feeders on the food chain in a mid-ranking but globally respected consultancy, he prepares a lot of PowerPoint presentations. He raids Wikipedia and Google for data, and slices, dices and mines it with relentless enthusiasm and absolute lack of imagination.
Demographically, Robin Verghese belongs to Socio-Economic Class A (SEC-A) with a B.Tech and MBA from decent institutes. He is cosmopolitan in his tastes (likes both filmi and Western pop, Nandita Das as well as blonde porn stars). He’s ambitious, willing to cut corners.
He’s also an incipient binge-drinker and a virgin, with many gigabytes of porn stored on his hard drive. He thinks about sex every proverbial seventh second. But he spends the other six worrying about his prospects of promotion. He is shallow, self-absorbed, geeky and lacks in humour.
The absence of the latter is precisely what makes the book hysterically funny. Vadukut has pulled off what, in literary jargon, is called an ‘Adrian Mole’. Dork is a first person account, purportedly written by a gormless dork, who is risible because he has no clue that he is in the least risible.
One of his campus interviews ends with the interviewers cheering through joyous tears, as they hear him expound on the intricacies of the Black Scholes Option Pricing Model (a foul incantation that has inspired far more suicides than giggles).
His life is similar to anybody who has been a singleton renting in Bombay. He’s quizzed about his eating habits by the landlord. He cooks off a microwave for months because he can’t afford a day off at home waiting for gas-cylinder delivery. His salary account is blocked (ditto, for address-verification).
These things are always more funny in retrospect. So is getting wasted and puking on a prospective girlfriend’s T-shirt. The descriptions of political judo and shifting office alliances will also have deep resonances for anybody who’s done time in a white-collar environment of intrigue, gossip and back-stabbing.
Einstein is actually so gormless that he is shocked to discover his firm is more interested in finding new ways to bill clients than in solving their problems. Eventually, after several mega-disasters, he makes good through a hilarious and preposterous sequence of events. He also gets the girl — sort of.
If proof were needed, this book shows again that anything can be funny, given the right presentation. It would have been easy, far easier in fact, to write a grey, grim saga of circumstantial angst weaving the same material. It takes talent to sustain farce of this quality and remarkably, the humour stays gentle. One looks forward to the next instalment in the life of REV.
Devangshu Dutta is a Delhi-based writer