Saturday, June 7, 2008

Buy This Book

I promise you won't be sorry. Click here for an easy-buying link. I should mention the author is a good friend of mine from college, but believe me, I have a lot of friends who are atrocious writers, so I'm not recommending it for that reason. An excerpt:

The First Night

For the Desk of:

His Excellency Wen Jiabao
The Premier's Office
Capital of the Freedom-loving Nation of China

From the Desk of:

"The White Tiger"
A Thinking Man
And an Entrepreneur
Living in the world's center of Technology and Outsourcing
Electronics City Phase 1 (just off Hosur Main Road)
Bangalore, India

Mr. Premier,


Neither you nor I speak English, but there are some things that can be said only in English.

My ex-employer the late Mr. Ashok's ex-wife, Pinky Madam, taught me one of these things; and at 11:32 p.m. today, which was about ten minutes ago, when the lady on All India Radio announced, "Premier Jiabao is coming to Bangalore next week," I said that thing at once.

In fact, each time when great men like you visit our country I say it. Not that I have anything against great men. In my way, sir, I consider myself one of your kind. But whenever I see our prime minister and his distinguished sidekicks drive to the airport in black cars and get out and do namastes before you in front of a TV camera and tell you about how moral and saintly India is, I have to say that thing in English.

Now, you are visiting us this week, Your Excellency, aren't you? All India Radio is usually reliable in these matters.

That was a joke, sir.


That's why I want to ask you directly if you really are coming to Bangalore. Because if you are, I have something important to tell you. See, the lady on the radio said, "Mr. Jiabao is on a mission: he wants to know the truth about Bangalore."

My blood froze. If anyone knows the truth about Bangalore, it's me.

Next, the lady announcer said, "Mr. Jiabao wants to meet some Indian entrepreneurs and hear the story of their success from their own lips."

She explained a little. Apparently, sir, you Chinese are far ahead of us in every respect, except that you don't have entrepreneurs. And our nation, though it has no drinking water, electricity, sewage system, public transportation, sense of hygiene, discipline, courtesy, or punctuality, does have entrepreneurs. Thousands and thousands of them. Especially in the field of technology. And these entrepreneurs -- we entrepreneurs -- have set up all these outsourcing companies that virtually run America now.

You hope to learn how to make a few Chinese entrepreneurs, that's why you're visiting. That made me feel good. But then it hit me that in keeping with international protocol, the prime minister and foreign minister of my country will meet you at the airport with garlands, small take-home sandalwood statues of Gandhi, and a booklet full of information about India's past, present, and future.

That's when I had to say that thing in English, sir. Out loud.

That was at 11:37 p.m. Five minutes ago.

I don't just swear and curse. I'm a man of action and change. I decided right there and then to start dictating a letter to you. To begin with, let me tell you of my great admiration for the ancient nation of China.

I read about your history in a book, Exciting Tales of the Exotic East, that I found on the pavement, back in the days when I was trying to get some enlightenment by going through the Sunday secondhand book market in Old Delhi. This book was mostly about pirates and gold in Hong Kong, but it did have some useful background information too: it said that you Chinese are great lovers of freedom and individual liberty. The British tried to make you their servants, but you never let them do it. I admire that, Mr. Premier.

I was a servant once, you see.

Only three nations have never let themselves be ruled by foreigners: China, Afghanistan, and Abyssinia. These are the only three nations I admire.

Out of respect for the love of liberty shown by the Chinese people, and also in the belief that the future of the world lies with the yellow man and the brown man now that our erstwhile master, the white-skinned man, has wasted himself through buggery, cell phone usage, and drug abuse, I offer to tell you, free of charge, the truth about Bangalore.

By telling you my life's story.

See, when you come to Bangalore, and stop at a traffic light, some boy will run up to your car and knock on your window, while holding up a bootlegged copy of an American business book, wrapped carefully in cellophane and with a title like:




Don't waste your money on those American books. They're so yesterday.

I am tomorrow.

In terms of formal education, I may be somewhat lacking. I never finished school, to put it bluntly. Who cares! I haven't read many books, but I've read all the ones that count. I know by heart the works of the four greatest poets of all time -- Rumi, Iqbal, Mirza Ghalib, and a fourth fellow whose name I forget. I am a self-taught entrepreneur.

That's the best kind there is, trust me.

When you have heard the story of how I got to Bangalore and became one of its most successful (though probably least known) businessmen, you will know everything there is to know about how entrepreneurship is born, nurtured, and developed in this, the glorious twenty-first century of man.

The century, more specifically, of the yellow and the brown man.

You and me.

It is a little before midnight now, Mr. Jiabao. A good time for me to talk.

I stay up the whole night, Your Excellency. And there's no one else in this 150-square-foot office of mine. Just me and a chandelier above me, although the chandelier has a personality of its own. It's a huge thing, full of small diamond-shaped glass pieces, just like the ones they used to show in the films of the 1970s. Though it's cool enough at night in Bangalore, I've put a midget fan -- five cobwebby blades -- right above the chandelier. See, when it turns, the small blades chop up the chandelier's light and fling it across the room. Just like the strobe light at the best discos in Bangalore.

This is the only 150-square-foot space in Bangalore with its own chandelier! But it's still a hole in the wall, and I sit here the whole night.

The entrepreneur's curse. He has to watch his business all the time.

Now I'm going to turn the midget fan on, so that the chandelier's light spins around the room.

I am relaxed, sir. As I hope you are.

Let us begin.

Before we do that, sir, the phrase in English that I learned from my ex-employer the late Mr. Ashok's ex-wife Pinky Madam is:

What a fucking joke.

Another book that's awesome: Absurdistan by Gary Shteyngart


danny said...

Chinese culture and history is fascinating and mysterious. As China increasingly is seen as a growing business power, interest in learning the Chinese language had rocketed, and dominance of Chinese over English will be a long time coming. More and more people begin to learn Chinese, because here is clear career potential for the future. Chinese language education market will be prosperous.

es_trick said...

Anyone who wants to do business in China would indeed be well advised to learn Chinese (Mandarin, Cantonese, other?), or employ people who know the language and culture.

But even though the market in China is potentially enormous, and China's economy could ultimately dwarf every other country in the world, English has already established itself as the "universal language" of commerce, science, medicine, rock & roll, international diplomacy, . . .

Also, the Roman alphabet is easy to learn (even if English spelling and pronunciation are not) and all of the other countries that use the Roman alphabet are not going to easily switch over to learning Chinese Characters.

And another thing, it could be that the Chinese prefer to do business with Westerners in English rather than Mandarin. I know for a fact that the Japanese and Koreans feel rather uncomfortable when they encounter the rare Westerner who is completely fluent in their language. They seem to feel that it's a violation of their group boundaries, and prefer to think that foreigners are incapable of mastering their language.

Not sure if the Chinese share these cultural attitudes. Perhaps not, given that they have for thousands of years thought of their country as the 'center of the universe' to whom all other peoples must pay tribute.

Anonymous said...

Adiga's book is fantastic. I finished it a few weeks ago. Adiga has a fresh voice, similar, in my opinion, to Dave Eggers'. It's a clever story, and the main character, Balram, sticks to my consciousness. One of the book's themes is essentially how much the rich and poor in India have in common regarding their primal instincts.

I wish Adiga would contribute to Mongoose's upcoming chess fiction anthology -- I mean, chess is HUGE in India -- but alas, Liz, you didn't ask him. --Howard Goldowsky

Elizabeth Vicary said...

I'm glad you liked the book Howard, but, as I mentioned in my email, Aravind doesn't play chess and has no interest in learning.

Anonymous said...

Ah, yes. I'm just harassing you. :)

Chess fiction doesn't necessarily need to revolve around chess. Chess can be used merely as glue, and for this a writer does not even need to know how to play. In THE WHITE TIGER, the theme is not really about what it's like to be a servant in India. The themes of the book are more global and metaphorical. Balram's job as a servant only works as a way to "paint" broader strokes of meaning. Same with chess fiction: often in good chess fiction the chess is used merely as a tool to bring out broader themes. The writer doesn't need to be a player, although it helps.

I'm just being a nagging brat -- ignore!

But as an FYI, we do have a nice set of famous writers lined up to contribute to the Mongoose anthology, including a number of NY Times best selling authors. Adiga would be in good company.


Anonymous said...

I look greatly forward to this anthology, as I haven't read a good piece of chess fiction - well, ever. I admit my knowledge of the genre is not encyclopedic, though. Any good suggestions?

Rick Massimo
(I'm just going to post anonymously and sign from now on because I don't like being anon and I forgot my login and I don't have a blog anyway.)