Serious Men


Author: Manu Joseph

Genre : Adult fiction

Narrative style : Omnipresent narrator

I will not support people who presume that somewhere, far away in space, there could be beings so human that they will build machines that will send us a radio signal. Man is not searching for aliens. Man is searching for man. it’s called loneliness. Not science. – Arvind Acharya

Ayyan was tempted to write another invented quote. that would be risky. He usually inserted only one phoney quote every week or so. That way his subversive abuse of the Brahmins would not attract too much attention. But that morning he could not resist the temptation. He pretended to look into a piece of paper and wrote a fresh thought:

  Reservation for the low-caste is a very unfair system. To compensate, let us offer the Brahmins the right to be treated as animals for 3,000 years and at the end of it lets give them a 15 per cent reservation

– Vallumpuri John.

Serious Men is a novel about revolting ideas and what happens when these ideas co-exist in close proximity with one another. There is disagreement among scientists regarding their belief on the existence of aliens, a growing displeasure between social classes, a tale of insatiable love and unchecked ambitions.

Ayyan, a Dalit, works among upper caste Brahmin scientists and loathes the fact that he is from a social system where he is regarded as beneath them. He is the lowly personal assistant of the top-notch scientist Acharya working for the  Institute of Theory and Research. His secret pleasures involves  gawking at “modern young mothers” and young high caste girls well beyond his reach, inventing and writing thoughts for the day offensive to Brahmins, opening and reading mails meant for Acharya, making other scientists wait for their appointment and keeping phone off hooks so he can listen to every possible conversation in the Scientist room.

Arvind Acharaya, a peerless scientist in the institute who would go to great lengths to show his displeasure including hurling a shoe at the wedding altar and whispering abuses into pope’s ears. He belittles the research plans of other scientists. He blames them of making the whole process(of finding Alien signals)an effort to make it appear glamorous and media and layman friendly. Irked by the power Acharya holds and the fear of having to put down their own stature the other scientists try to dethrone him by sabotaging his image and career.

The novel is about how  the world of two characters so dissimilar to one another merge into one. How one’s ambitions come to rest upon the shoulders of the other. The novel portrays the varied human emotions beautifully or should I say ruthlessly? The characters are crafted adequately and they do manage to hold their power on readers. The novel was a pleasure to read. Pleasurable not because it is one of those novels which will revive your trust in humanity , on the contrary the novel has more to do with the darker aspects of human nature. But because the novel does reflect the efforts put in by the author you fall in love with the imperfectly carved characters.

So now lets come to the part of the novel that I didn’t like.The lack of a strong woman character. Now you might overlook it like it is no big deal. But somehow it struck me odd. The novel throws in a couple of incidences which I as an Indian woman relate to. You know the ones where women breasts are elbowed and butts pinched in public by man for his pleasure. There is a highly learned woman, Oparna, in the all man institute, who of course is made aware of the same,  by her male fellows. But she too is somehow at the disposal of men. The author might have started off well by giving us a small picture of woman survival in a society dominated by man by introducing Oparna to the institute. But by the end of it all the purpose was lost.

At the end of the novel the exits and re-entry of women are abrupt and convenient. I felt that just as the woman characters are at the disposal of male characters within the novel, they have been treated the same way by the author. Isn’t author mirroring the male characters of the novel by disposing off the female characters conveniently.

Favorite Quote

I really loved what you could call a comeback one liner by Acharya in the Novel

‘Don’t look at me like that son. When I was your age I was so smart that if you wanted to kiss my arse you would’ve had to take an entrance exam.’

What turned me on: Everything. The multi dimensional characters, the humor, the way the story develops,.

What put me off: Like I said there was lesser justice done to the Female characters. But then it might be just me and the story could have intended wholly for the two men.