youthcurry.blogspot.com, 12 July 2007. Reviewer: Rashmi Bansal.
From the very first page, the words pitter patter, thoughts flow and dialogue is easy and natural. The first chapter captures the tension that the average IIT aspirant goes through. Right from the fact that few even know why they’re taking the exam … more
Atlas: New writing | Art | Image 02. Editorial review by Sudeep Sen.
There’s a lucidity to Bagchi’s writing – a touch of bhodrolok – that is often absent from his contemporaries.
A hugely welcome debut.
Deccan Herald, 10 June 2007. Reviewer: R Krishnakumar.
Bagchi’s lead man Arindam (Rindu, for friends) doesn’t fit the goofy, bashful youngster staple from recent works by Indian writers, set in similar premises. He has a quiet composed air about him that plays along fine with the averageness of his life … more
The Hindu Literary Review, 6 May 2007. Reviewer: Sheba Thayil.
Above Average is horribly reminiscent of a lot of Indian college life. There are the students who are competitive and face heartbreak from cleverer peers on a regular basis; those who make your stories their storiesl those who make up grand tales to impress and are then found out; teachers who humiliate and themselves have feet of clay … These are authentic characters with authentic dialogue … more
The Tribune, Chandigarh edition, 29 April 2007. Reviewer: Kanchan Mehta.
Based on the author’s early life experiences, Above Average, Amitabha Bagchi’s debut novel, recalls Joyce’s Portrait of the Artist As a Young Man and Marcel Proust’s In Search of Lost Time … more
DNA India, 15 April 2007. Reviewer: Freny Maneckshaw.
Bagchi has an honest candour in realising that IITians lead a hermetic, rarefied existence and so frequently brings in events of the outside world. Sensitive to issues of gender and caste, he attempts to address these concerns through allusions to the problems that SC quota students … face … more
desicritics.org, 9 April, 2007. Reviewer: Aaman Lamba.
Like in the fairy tale genre, all quests in the novel cause great suffering, and are futile. A desire to be ‘above average’ defines it’s own limits, and even those with vaunting ambition reach only so far before their ‘aspiration fills whatever space it occupies’. This might almost be a cautionary tale of Indian progress, with it’s failed techno-entrepreneurs, rootless desis in the diaspora, and a regression to the mean … more
Financial Express, 25 March 2007. Reviewer: Rakesh K Singh.
The author’s exploration of universal issues is helped along by a shy but ambitious protagonist. He does not avoid clichés, rather seeing their place in a campus that is already “an island in the city”. This exploration of a rare world may leave the algorithm unsolved, it is above the average it is as far as books on IIT go.
Hindustan Times, 18 March 2007. Reviewer: Jairaj Singh.
The book’s subliminal sub-stories are about basic forms of human nature: jealousy, betrayal, triumph, and loss. The book also short-circuits the basic principle … of childhood, where the world is divided in right and wrong.
Routes, the Gateway Magazine, March 2007. Reviewer: Jai Arjun Singh.
It’s a touching coming-of-age story – simply written, but with a good feel for its characters and their conversations — about how easy it is to dream big when you’re young and equally easy to start compromising as you grow older … a more complex novel than it’s branding suggests.
Time Out Mumbai, 9 March 2007. Reviewer: Leo Mirani,
[Arindam] is a regular guy, above average, like the title says, but that’s about it, which makes Bagchi’s debut a relatable, honest account that’s aimed at regular Indian guys.
New Indian Express, 8 March 2007.
The pure desiness of the novel brings to you the smells, sounds and sights of Delhi. The uncles and aunties of Mayur Vihar’s society are people whose parallels you’ll find in your own neighbourhood.
Outlook, 19 March 2007. Reviewer: Hari Menon.
Its many set pieces — riffs on entrance exam madness, a rock competition gone madly awry, a first kiss by an old well — are lovely. And the protagonist, Arindam Chatterjee, is a likeable guy. But no central character does anything to grab the reader … more
Tehelka, 3 March 2007. Reviewer: Arshad Said Khan.
Bagchi’s biggest asset is his language. He moves smoothly from funny desi similes and Delhi-speak to lyrical description. The tone is mostly warm and light yet frank. He is most enjoyable when describing Delhi: vivid yet eerie, charming but hollow, extremely conscious of its very visible class boundaries, composed of many small towns and the clichés that follow … more
Mentions from around the web
From The Bride’s blog:
I also really liked the insight it gave me into the male mind. This is a story told intricately from the male perspective; the female characters are very peripheral. And although I cannot be 100% sure, I think it’s a very typical Indian male perspective, though Rindu is a bit more pensive than the average joe. In particular, I was intrigued by the way men communicate with each other. As I’ve said before, I grew up in a very female-centric environment and it was a shock to me to realize how uncommunicative men are, how they gloss over the important stuff with platitudes. I’ve always suspected that there’s more to men than they let on and this comes through in Bagchi’s novel … more
From Sanjeev Kotnala’s blog:
In a master craftsman style, Amitabh layers the three eco system of self- friends- family over a complex web of hostel- home- studies- aspirations; they are treated like an isolated mass of emotions yet threaded together seamlessly. It’s free flowing. If you object to disjointed incidences that are opening before you in a very honest narration, you soon find yourself enjoying the overall effect … more
From The New Ramanujan’s blog:
And more specially, this book is about da subtle chemistry dat flows among friends, especially in the college-hostel life. Probably dat is why I can connect with da characters … more
From Captain Subtext’s blog:
It’s even more interesting because it’s written by someone who teaches at IITD now. It took me a long time to realise that Professors are human beings too, who have a life beyond the classrooms, labs and their offices. I still tend to forget that at time. We don’t have labs at my present college though … more
From Teleute’s blog
For a couple of days after reading this book, I longed to have gone to an IIT. In fact I sat and idly fantasized about taking the JEE again after I’m done with my Masters … more
From Swayamsiddha’s blog:
Romance in the novel works as the subliminal force … isnt thats how it is in college … I guess that is reason why its such a rivetting read … you are spared the sickening embrace of love and infatuation … which suffocates you no end in some of the avante garde novels written on similar lines … more
From Rimi B Chaterjee’s blog:
In this book, you can tell the author cares about his story and its meanings, and he’s not just telling it to entertain (or sell humungous print runs).
I have a feeling that Bagchi’s book will last, while Bhagat’s might not. Bhagat’s book is not ambitious; it does what it sets out to do very competently and in that sense is more successful than Above Average. But it doesn’t remain in your mind. This one does … more
From Puneri’s blog:
The honesty in the narration and the humor in even sad situations makes it a very enjoyable read. And you really don’t have to be an IITian to get the book … more
From Falstaff’s blog:
It would have been easy to be too clever or too dramatic in writing this book, but it’s a trap that Bagchi successfully avoids. And because he does the book has a certain basic authenticity, a sense of genuineness, of fundamental honesty. It’s a quality that’s rare enough to be worth admiring … more
From Aspi’s blog review:
The melancholy that informs the narrative is often yoked with droll humor. In one instance when Rindu’s romantic notions of reading to his girlfriend have just been abruptly dispelled he tells us “The truth of what she said rang through my mind like the proof of a theorem.” It’s a style that is emblematic of the book itself – one that makes you want to chuckle and sigh in the same breath … more
From Amitava Kumar’s blog:
Is it possible to review a book after having read only the first chapter? While waiting for your answer, a quick word about Amitabha Bagchi’s debut novel Above Average. The voice is part-Upamanyu Chatterjee and part-Amitav Ghosh. I have just started reading it and like it because of lines like these: “When we entered the train compartment in which Agrawals Classes had booked all of us, one of the Papas decided to ensure that we all sit together. ‘Please bhaisahab,’ he said, hectoring one passenger after another, ‘adjust a little … more
The second half of the book really came together for me. Maybe that was when the housing colony angst bits and the aspiring rock star angst bits gave way to the academic life angst bits. I found myself identifying / identifying with aspects of every other character described there — from the wannabe “great theoretician” who went all practical in making his life’s biggest decision to the guy who proudly ditched his grades in courses he considered non-essential to the acerbic squash-playing professor. Sure, there were threads that seemed to make no sense. And there was a little bit of maudlin stuff and a little bit of self-conscious sex and a little bit of gratuitous violence. But that’s life, right? The last fifty pages I didn’t want the book to end … more
From Sariel’s blog:
I liked its descriptions of life in Delhi, and its descriptions of human relationships. I had fun reading it, and while I was deeply disappointed that no aliens from outer space landed by page 70 of the book, I do recommend it … more