February 22, 2020
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Cutting Edge

An English, August for IIM-wallahs. Unlike Chetan Bhagat, Bajaj writes good English. This debut novel is pacy, unpretentious, and great fun to read.

Cutting Edge
Keep Off The Grass
By Karan Bajaj
HarperCollins Pages. 272. Rs. 195
Until his India sojourn, American-born investment banker Samrat Ratan had lived his life according to the script: straight As in school, valedictorian at Yale, and joining the best bank on Wall Street. Then angst struck. "I can’t live this Truman Show any longer."

And so he did what half the confused folks in search of themselves do: booked a ticket to India. Except, being too much of a desi to join an ashram, he joined IIM Bangalore instead. This is a narration of his misadventures in a place where grades count for more than mundane matters like life and death.

Karan Bajaj’s debut novel is pacy, unpretentious, and great fun to read. An IIM alumnus who is now a consultant for the Boston Consulting Group in Washington, he talks about things he obviously knows from his own life. The characters are based on his friends—in the prologue he mentions names of some who will "unwittingly find themselves thrust in the middle of these pages". There is an authenticity to his narrative.

Bajaj will be compared to Chetan Bhagat because he tackles similar subjects. But there’s a difference between the two: Bajaj writes good English. Bajaj himself would clearly like to be compared to Upamanyu Chatterjee. He, in fact, mentions English, August in the prologue and the text. Ruskin Bond’s another influence; he even makes a cameo appearance.

Keep Off the Grass tries to be an English, August for IIM-wallahs. I think it succeeds.

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