Book Review: 1888 Dial India

Part of South Asian Challenge 2012

Title: 1888 Dial India
Author: Anuvab Pal
Publisher: Random House India
ISBN: 978-81-8400-158-7
Pages: 230
Genre: Fiction
Rating: 3.5 of 5
Reviewed for: Random House India



This is not the story of Arun Gupta – eccentric genius, maniac tapper, jerk boss and loser businessman; this is the story of the India we live in today. The new India. Quoting from the blurb of the book not the ‘Sir, I’ll wipe your ass, sir, make me a member of your Gymkhana Club, sir’ India but the 21st century India – the India with big dreams of big cash. Playwright and screenplay writer Anuvab Pal takes us on a wordy trip into the mind and mannerisms of this India through the narrator-protagonist- antihero: Arun Gupta.

The book starts with the interesting narration of Arun Gupta on why he is writing a memoir while living out of the garage of his London based brother and goes through his attempts to create wealth and a new India through his unconventional ideas of outsourcing – from home appliances repairs to blow jobs. After many a failed attempts which involves some super con and a lot of what Delhi people will call jugaad and some very close brushes with the lawmakers he lands on what he calls ‘the next google idea’ and pitches it as ‘do you want to miss the boat’ to his US based investor Sarah, who incidentally had also funded his other ‘failed’ or as he calls them ‘renaissance’ ideas. Arun Gupta is a self proclaimed US expert and this time he wants to save American lives. It is year 2009 and the US of A is in the grip of an unforgivable economic slump which is just throwing around unemployment and people are throwing themselves off bridges, towers, windows, just about anything that will kill them. Arun’s idea is simple and straight like all great things – when everything in the US can be outsourced to India why not the task of saving desolate souls from taking their lives. After all no one beats us Indians in emotions or compassion, look at our films or better still look at our TV soaps. So after a successful pitch with Sarah he starts 1888 Dial India – America’s latest suicide hotline. He plans to divert Americans about to dive off a New Jersey skyscraper sitting in his new, not so plush office in aamchi Navi Mumbai with his on and off able telecaller Rashmi and rarely able except when snooping around telecaller Ramesh. Two employees, one cook and Arun Gupta is on a roll, well nearly!

Pal in this 200 odd pager takes the reader through most of the incidents that have affected and influenced our lives in the recent past though the unabridged, politically incorrect, openhearted rant of his protagonist. It is breezy and uproariously funny while being equally informative and thought provoking. It is also came out to be one of the most inspirational books I have read in the recent past in a very unconventional manner just like its protagonist. Amongst all its satire it conveys a very important lesson: don’t stand still, move & don’t just move, move R.A.P.I.D.L.Y.! Pal through Arun Gupta very smoothly conveys the thoughts and performance difference between young and old India, sometimes glorified as generation gap. He also talks about all the dreams and desires of corporate India and how no means stands as amoral, no dream too big, no job too small and no flight too cheap!

1888 Dial India is a recommended read for a short trip, a lazy weekend or just about anywhere except public places, you may run the risk of being stamped ‘potential mental asylum resident’ for those uncontrollable laughs. Already a premiered play with Kunal Roy Kapur playing Arun Gupta this one is a laugh riot, feel good book all the way to the end where Arun is pitching another of his ideas to Sarah.

Happy reading.

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