Stepping inside a hollow head

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Stepping inside a hollow head

In American slang, ‘dork’ implies a social misfit, a stupid person who is not to be confused with a ‘nerd’ or ‘geek’, which refer to intelligent misfits. Sidin Vadukut is definitely not a dork, but his hero is.

Fortunately or unfortunately, that hero of Vadukut’s does not exist in real life. Rather, Vadukut’s dork hero, Robin ‘Einstein’ Varghese, a fellow Malayali, has emerged out of a mental combination of character traits of all part-dorks that he met during his engineering college years in NIT-Trichy, IIM days in Ahmedabad and work life in Mumbai. Vadukut has given birth, rather brought alive, this dork, in a his debut novel titled, what else but, Dork: The Incredible Adventures of Robin ‘Einstein Varghese.

It could be great fun or disastrous — depending on your viewpoint — to meet up with someone like Varghese in real life. Since that’s virtually impossible going by the impossibly stupid character Vadukut has dreamt up in his story, the next best option would be to read the book, which much like its character, might score with you or piss you off with its in-your-face brand of humour. The book is written in a diary format and is the first of a trilogy. (Sample the advance ‘praise’ for the book on the back cover, which sort of lampoons the trend of such praise: ‘A stunning new voice in Indian literature! In Dork, Vadukut has written the book I’ve always wanted to write’ — William Dalrymple’s biggest fan’s youngest sister; or, ‘I read this book and instantly knew that Robin Varghese is the role of a lifetime. Inshallah, I will be a part of the movie when it’s made’ — Shah Rukh Khan’s dentist’s accountant).

 As Vadukut awaits the reviews and reader feedback, he ruminates about how the character came into being. “Varghese is based roughly on 60 per cent of what I have observed in college and work, 30 per cent on other people’s experiences and the remaining 10 per cent is fiction. He is a combination of a lot of interesting people I have met. I have put into him everybody’s character flaws. I can’t believe that there are actual people like him, and so when I wrote I thought nobody would identify with him. But after the book has been published, a lot of people have told me that they know someone like him,” he says.

Vadukut describes Varghese as a “hugely optimistic” and “naive” character that developed out of a blog post he had written about what would happen if a guy with only theoretical knowledge in marketing consultancy sets out to implement all that in practical life.

“The origin of the story goes back to six years. I sat for an exam on operations management, and did very badly. I had done operations management in my work. It set me thinking. I had done the job but could not write an exam. I came back thinking, what if there is a guy who because of having done well in the exam thinks he can do anything based on textbook information. I wrote a small blog on such a guy, just out of business school, who decides to implement all his textbook fundas in his first job, and how it blows up on him. Later, when I contacted a few publishers to write a book, it was suggested that I write fiction. But I hate fiction, I write very bad fiction. So I was told to go through my blog posts and see if something could emerge from there. That was when my wife reminded me about this character. Finally, the whole thing got expanded into this book,” he recalls.

 The debutante author feels that the publishing scene in India currently is good for writers like him. “I think it is much easier to be published now, though you need to be really persistent with the publishers, and willing to talk to them and network. But there is absolutely no way you can make a living out of writing, unless you are a success like Chetan Bhagat. I am sure 15 years ago I would not have been published. Who would have published a humourous, office-culture novel then? But now times are changing, and you even have movies like Rocket Singh, which are based on office culture. You spend eight hours a day in office, and there is much humour there, so why not express it?” elaborates the author, who has to write the two sequels within 2010.

No wonder, for someone who has (almost) sacrificed his social life for writing, things can only get better. Anyone for more dork philosophy? Vadukut is already penning them!

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