Get past the rather cringe-worthy title and Arnab Ray’s May I Hebb Your Attention Pliss! will entertain you as it charts the many weirdnesses of urban India. Ray negotiates the heady yet discomfiting years immediately after liberalisation through wicked vignettes of life, such as on desi weddings, nris and Bhojpuri cinema and mercilessly highlights some of our preoccupations including the ratings-mad television and the management institute cult.
It’s all nicely familiar to the many readers of the widely read blog, ‘Random Thoughts of a Demented Mind’ by Great Bong (Ray’s blogging identity). And that’s the problem with the book. Blog posts are episodic in nature, and reading 1,500 words that agreeably praise B-grade films or lambast call centres can be a pleasant diversion. A riff on why Loha, the Kanti Shah film, secretly bears an allegory for graduate school makes a hilarious blog post. But reading over forty thousand words of this pales quickly, with no real connection between disparate themes and little that’s particularly novel (you already knew young single men are sex-crazy, weddings are torture, HR people are truly scary; the searing insight that makes such caricatures memorable is mostly set to anodyne levels). Sometimes Ray cranks it up, as in his darkly comic riff on Indian sexual frustration as seen by future academics. But not often enough to recommend that you read this book instead of his blog.