Jul 27, 2005

Book review of "Mediocre But Arrogant"



As a category the MBA seems under threat, with even the likes of Henry Mintzberg (who gets quoted by all the MBAs) training his guns on them. In India, we are subjected to conjecture and envy when the MBA salaries come out in Feb-Dec. No wonder that the common man questions "Who are these guys?"

Abhijit Bhaduri in his book "Mediocre But Arrogant" tries to answer that question in a humanistic way.

Mediocre But Arrogant is the story of Abbey an unambitious drifter who was good in extra-curricular activities during his BA (Eco) days because he needed the cash from inter-collegiate festivals to pay for cigarettes and coffee. He has clueless about what he wants to do after his graduation and serendipitously lands up for a course in HR from the Management Institute of Jamshedpur.

The book is how Abbey navigates his way through the two years of MBA in Jamshedpur, the girls he falls in love with, the friends he makes, and his journey from a youngster without any clue, to a person who doesn't mind flouting the rules to survive and towards the end of the book, the signs are evident that he's becoming more self-aware and possibly more responsible...?

But the book is more than just about Abbey, it's also about his interaction with systems (like Delhi University and MIJ) and people (from Profs like the respected by all Haathi and feared by all Chatto ) and classmates (from the slimy Gopher, the know-it-all Rusty, the "brains" Sethu). Abbey of course has a major soft spot for the women, and they have a profound impact on him, giving rise to some of his most introspective moments. There is the 'girl back hom' Priya, Ayesha 'the coquette' and Keya 'the lovely'. In each one of them Abbey discovers a human being beyond just the bracket they get slotted in by the boys.

What Mediocre But Arrogant does is that it humanizes the MBA from the analytical left brained creatures of popular media to normal youngsters who have their own set of dreams and insecurities.

While the book is based in the 1980s the world of MBAs have changed, but there are deeper roots that run through. For example, Bannerjee Babu, who does student's assignments and projects for a fee and is the repository of all papers churned out in the past is a human figure of cyberspace which today's MBAs rely so much more on.

What I would have liked in the book is more stories about Abbey's classmates. While the book is written in the first person by Abbey who is quite self-centred stories/episodes about fellow classmates and professors would have made the book much more engrossing.

The humor is always spot on, and anyone who's lived in a hostel with weird people will surely be able to identify with the book. Of course, I think the people who should really read the book are the ones who aspire to do an MBA. The book shatters a lot of myths around MBAs and yet does not demonize them. The cartoons are really good...I loved the ones on the MIJ anthem, OB notes and the Strategic Planning notes. Go ahead, check them out!

Abhijit tells me that the second book will be about how Abbey copes with corporate life. I can't wait for it now ! I want to see what Rusty, Gur, Gopher, Abbey, Ayesha, Sethu will turn into in five years...(you know the campus interviewer's always-in-fashion question..."where do you see yourself in five years?" Will Fundu become an NGO worker? Will Rusty actually move towards consulting? Will the 'jugaadu' guys do better than the ones who studied hard? I would love to know all these... How will they deal with strikes in the workplace? With firing people? With subordinates...?