I received a book from the Author and this is an honest review
Bend Your Knees & Do Your Best is one of the best books I have ever read in my life. Yes, ever!
I am surprised that this book has not taken off or become popular like it deserves. But that’s a story for a different day.
When I was offered a chance to read this book, I have to admit being a little skeptical about its quality. Usually, first time authors do not tend to write well or write original stories and I have been disappointed too many times. But, I read the first few pages and I was hooked on to it immediately. Let me articulate why. Here is a statement from the fourth page.
It angrily observed that education didn’t really seem to help Young People at all; in fact, all it seemed to do was to help them articulate their foolishness in English
This statement is where I think I started getting mesmerized. It has so many things going for it. “Young People”. The reality of the statement. That we might have thought it at least once. And the humour. Plus, the whole foreshadowing when this comes back to bite the protagonist (author?) later on. There are so many gems like that in this book.
If this is not convincing enough by now, continue to read the review. Else, go out, buy the book and read it.
I am trying to think of a food analogy to this book. The closest I can get to is a multi-layered food like Lasagna with multiple flavors. I mean, on the surface, this is the story of a middle-aged woman (sorry, Kalyani!) in a dead-end IT job who is trying to get to grips with her life. There are liberal seasonings of humour. But go a layer deeper and there is a lot more going on. There is philosophy. There is belief vs logic. There is the peer pressure and the societal pressure that is exerted on the middle class. There is the mind-numbing make-work and hypocrisy of corporate life. There is the conflict between “traditional” “Indian” values (LOL) and modern life.
Each of these themes are layers. These are not toppings. I mean, this is not like your typical Indian movie with something for everyone. You know – a dance sequence, a comedy scene, an action scene, a tragic scene so on and so forth. Rather, these themes interplay and are present throughout the book. It just beats me how the author has managed to do all this. Kudos!
I was able to identify with almost everything Kalyani has said in the book – the corporate inanity, the pressure to meet society’s expectations, the feeling of not making meaningful contributions – except, of course, for the gender part. I will let my wife, who has just picked up the book, comment on those (and everything else).
In a way, the author has held a mirror to Indian IT life / Middle class life to show us what the “big picture” *chuckles* is and what we are missing out on. I, in fact, don’t think of this as a criticism of the IT industry; the book basically brings to light what some of us self-aware worker ants are thinking. If that offends you, then maybe you should have a long, hard think about yourself.
Let me just touch on how funny this book. It is hilarious. Kalyani has her own unique style which works very well here. Some of it is straight jokes. Some of it lies in the internal monologues. There are some puns. There are corporate in-jokes. There are ones with bathos. The best ones are those that want to make you laugh and cry at the same time. I found something to amuse me throughout the book.
The book itself is broken into three parts. The first part deals with the impending lay-offs in her company, the second part is her attempt to get away from the rat race and the third part is acceptance (to a certain degree). The book is also relatively hefty at about 500 pages plus but you will not notice the length since the writing and story is so gripping.
If there is one criticism I have, it is the title of the book. It threw me off and it was not until I got to the final chapters that I understood how clever it was. But, I think it was too late and maybe a less enigmatic title would have made this book more accessible.
In conclusion, I never once felt like putting down this book. And I now want more.
Do yourself a favor and go read this book.