Is Dork the first genuinely good novel of corporate India? Its predecessors have been, at best, earnest chroniclers of unutterably mundane things like selling soap. This is partly because India’s elite business schools tend to produce not a few young people whose considerable IQ is surpassed only by extreme insecurity—and of them a surprising number believe that their self-validatory ramblings on their careers make riveting literature.
Vadukut may be the only one to have seen that such a world is simply begging for satire, as readers of his blog and column will know. And in Dork, he does it most delightfully. The book is set up as a series of diary entries from an eventful first year that Robin ‘Einstein’ Varghese works at a management consulting firm. Einstein is a pompous ass whose staggering self-belief is equalled by an ability to comprehensively screw up any assignment. There is a sort of horrified relish in watching him lurch from one troubled consulting engagement to another. Yet in Vadukut’s hands, Robin is a useful, even endearing, fool, not least in his bumbling way of snatching success from certain corporate disaster—mistaking his boss for a waiter, an inadvertent ball-bearing glut and drunken ramblings on the firm’s global voice-mail.
The book has a few rough edges: unlike the skilfully caricatured men, the women seem one-dimensional, though given the testosterone-fuelled world of consulting, this could be deliberate irony. And while the ending is hilarious, it’s a little too unrealistic. No matter, nothing else skewers corporate India’s assorted sillinesses so accurately. Or so funnily.