How stupid does he think we are?

For the past three weeks I have been struggling to come up with a post that can accurately describe just how bad One Night @ The Call Center is. And I have come to the conclusion that it isn’t possible. This post simply cannot begin to explain how awful ON@TCC is.

Still, I’ll try.

Let’s begin at the beginning. You liked Five Point Someone. It was a little cheesy, but it was honest. It had insider’s authority. Chetan Bhagat had mostly kept it real. So you picked up ON@TCC. And before the story even started, you realised that he had turned into a condescending prick when you saw this:

Before you begin this book, I have a small request. Right here, note down three things. Write down something that
i) you fear
ii) makes you angry
iii) you don’t like about yourself.

Have you done it?

If not, please do. It will enrich your experience of reading this book.

If yes, thanks. Sorry for doubting you. Please forget the exerise, my doubting you and enjoy the story.

Aargh! Bad author!

A box of strawberry creams by side would have enriched my reading of the book. So would a peppermint mocha. Not to mention a better plot and characterization. But reading something that looks like it’s straight out of my second term Organizational Behaviour course- that does not enrich my reading. I want authors to get down to the business of writing, damn it, and not muck about telling me how to read their books. I already know how to read them.

Right, let’s move on. For the next few chapters, there’s nothing really bad happening. Chetan Bhagat gets some easy laughs by bolding all the management jargon the call centre’s manager spouts. There’s a little plot build up. And then, things start getting fruit shaped.

The trouble really starts at Chapter 14, where Bhagat starts off with a customer support call from a clueless and drunk guy, and uses that to launch an America-bashing rant.

And really, the America-bashing is just an extension of bolding the jargon. It’s an easy, lazy way to get readers on your side. The problem isn’t Americans, it’s stupid Americans. Or Indians. Or Europeans. Or Chinese. Who have to be dealt with by Americans, Europeans, Indians, and Chinese. But why blame stupid people when you can tap everyone’s latent anti-Americanism by blaming Americans. Similarly, why bother creating a genuinely funny pointy-haired-boss when you can skip the hard work and stay with a stereotype?

The America-bashing goes on for the rest of the book. Bhagat accuses Americans of being obese, paranoid, fearful, warlike, stupid, loud and prone to divorce. The irony of one of his characters getting a divorce herself doesn’t seem to sink through to him.

But the book hits rock bottom right at the end, with the plan to prevent the call centre from firing all its employees. Guess what the plan is. Go ahead, guess.

The plan is to frighten Americans into calling the call centre by telling them that their washing machines and dishwashers have been infected with viruses by evil forces. The resulting surge in incoming calls will ensure that top management won’t downsize everyone.

Is this guy for real?

Is Chetan Bhagat stupid, or does he just think that his readers are stupid?

I mean, that is a bloody awful plan. Anybody can see that it won’t work.

Even if you accept Bhagat’s proposition that Americans are stupid, there will surely be at least some intelligent Americans who will realise that this is a hoax. Welcome to lawsuit city, baby!

Even if you accept Bhagat’s proposition that the volume of incoming calls alone will determine the survival of the call centre, a one night surge in call volumes is surely not enough to justify a call centre. If I was a senior manager, I would in fact find it very fishy indeed and try to understand why the hell it happened. Did this ass not learn about rejecting statistical outliers in first term statistics at IIMA? Or even IITD?

How the hell did he get a job at an investment bank, for crying out loud? They’re supposed to hire the cream of the crop? Or is it just that all I-bankers are stupid, and look out for stupid people to hire?

Alter Ego: Come now, Aadisht, don’t call all I-bankers stupid. That would be bad and bigoted. As bad and bigoted as calling all Americans stupid. Maybe even worse.

But it still hasn’t reached the absolute depths. No, that has to wait for the epilogue, where Bhagat tries to justify his deus ex machina– literally, it’s a call from God on a cellphone- with this: the girl telling him the story offers an alternative story, without any involvement of God, and then says:

‘Which of the two is a better story?’
I thought for a second.
‘The one with God in it,’ I said.
‘Just like life. Rational or not, it just gets better with God in it.’

No, no, no, no, no, no. It does not get better with God in it. It gets better with a plot that makes sense in the real world. It gets better with characters that move beyond stereotypes. It gets better with a story that isn’t so weak that it needs divine intervention to rescue it.

And after all this, Bhagat has the cheek to suggest that this story has been inspired by God Him/ Her/ Itself.

Excuse me? If I was God, and I saw something this rotten had been written in my name, I would be warming up the thunderbolts and getting ready to do some serious smiting. This book is an insult to divine inspiration. It suggests that the best that God can inspire is twaddle.

This book is not inspired by God. It is not inspired by Satan. It might have been inspired by some especially crappy Slimes of India or Rediff articles, or possibly by a bad sandwich and lukewarm tea. It is a waste of 95 rupees that could be better spent on dosa and sweet corn. Or sugarcane juice. In fact, the 95 rupees would be spent better even on copies of the Slimes of India, which functions better as toilet paper than ON@TCC.

Do not buy this book. You will only encourage Chetan Bhagat to write more of them.

43 Responses to How stupid does he think we are?

  1. Varsha says:

    ON@TCC is so hopelessly pathetic! Wish Chetan Bhagat could go beyond the lingo and put some substance in the matter. I mean its heights of stupidity. And anyone who calls this a good book should be sued!
    Good post dude…!

  2. Wimpy says:

    Or is it just that all I-bankers are stupid, and look out for stupid people to hire?

    Strong agreer.

    All i-bankers are stupid. The reason they pay such shitloads is that they somehow seem to want intelligent people and the intelligent people know that the job in i-banks is crap. So the only way to get in intelligent people is to pay insane salaries. However, most intelligent people see through the trick and go for better professions. And its only dufus who get into i-banking!

  3. Meghna says:

    SOOOOOOOOOO TRUE….I hate the book too.

  4. Suyog says:

    I did like FPS but i had never thought of Chetan Bhagat to be a great writer and deserving the hype he got; I am glad that I didnt bother spending another 18$ to buy this book and read it hehe!

    Great revu – and ON@TC is definitely on my Not-to-read list!



  5. Srini says:

    Couldn’t agree more. I wasn’t able to make it to the end, the book was so bad.

    >obese, paranoid, fearful, warlike, stupid, loud and prone to divorce.

    CAT verbal question no. 27: spot the odd man out in the list above. Answer: “prone to divorce”. It might be a negative quality, and it might not. Depends.
    The fact that Bhagat uses it merely reinforces your point about his attempts to elicit knee-jerk bigotry from his readers. Which raises the question, really, what does Chetan Bhagat think his readers are about?

    >rejecting statistical outliers in first term statistics at IIMA

    Numbers, dude. Stupid Americans get confused by quants. They wouldn’t know how to spell “outlier”…or so CB would have us believe.

    >all I-bankers are stupid, and look out for stupid people to hire

    That is frequently, but not always the case.

    >God Him/ Her/ Itself

    Blasphemy! The Flying Spaghetti Monster has a fine taste in literature. Not to mention canelloni accompanied with Chianti.

  6. Manas says:

    I think u took the author lil’ too seriously and had expectations from him.

    To all the readers, Beware of a person who tries his luck to become Master-of-all-trades after securing his future.

    To a juvenile author, Every day is not Sunday, baby!!
    And even if he thinks americans are dumbasses, he should know atleast we are not!

  7. Wowee – another classy review! I loved your review. I’d written one earlier at but yours is far far better.


  8. R. says:

    Haven’t read this book but have read the author’s previous book the five point someone and have liked it. The answer to your question is rather simpe though,
    ‘How stupid does he think we are?’ Stupid enough to buy the book


  9. Anand says:

    I was going to fume that you gave away the ending without a spoiler warning. But after it had sunk in, I thanked God (whom I always turn to for protection and other things also) that you had spelt it out, so that I could stay far far away from ON@TCC.
    But I’d imagine giving away endings can make publishers and authors quite angry.

  10. Sambit says:

    ON@TCC = CRAP (Completely Rubbish And Pathetic)
    Thank you Aadisht for writing this review. Lots of people will be spared the agony of realising that the book they bought was a bummer. How in God’s name (no pun intended) does such trash masquerade as a book? As Dorothy Parker rightly said, “This is not a novel to be tossed aside lightly. It should be thrown with great force.” And please, please aim straight at Chetan Bhagat.

  11. kamal says:

    oh so cool. he attacks the #1 author in the country and says the whole world is mediocre. so cool man, u are too cool for this world. oh man, no one appreciates you and they all are running to buy a mediocre book. unfair man. i mean, you are obviously good. the author, publisher, media are ALL stupid of course. can u be king? oh wait..god

  12. rajiv says:

    i dont get why ppl. so averse to melodrama. its everywhere around us, on the tube, in the movies, in life!!! so heck, why not in the books. till now everyone should be conditioned to it. the one thing that you ppl. did wrong was read the book in a sober mood. read it along with a old monk at your side, and i’m sure tears will stream down your face when the call from GOD comes :). just the way it did when SK cried out for Ash in Devdas (effect of Royal Stag!)

    btw, dont be surprised if there’s a movie one day (without the “confined spaces” lovemaking scene of course!)

  13. Devna says:

    Bulls’ Eye! Complete and utter trash, this book is a total waste of a reader’s investment. I do have a sadistic fantasy here — Maybe we could lock Chetan Bhagat and the “waarld famous” author (who impored us to enumerate our fowl before they produced their young) in room with a gun. At least, we will have one trouble less.

  14. Dips says:

    I did not like Five Point Someone too.. I felt like I (as a reader ) was being taken for granted..made out to be a simpleton..cmon..there was nothing interesting in it ..nothing new..not a great narrative style either !
    SO I never even thought about reading this.. lucky escape I guess !

  15. Funny_Person says:

    come now, while one must agree with your assessment of the plot, the quality of writing and the general air of “first stab at creative writing” – one must, out of sheer fairness, say, the ad hominen attacks are bit much, old chap. Takes away the force behind your argument re: terrible trashy second novel of a wannabe shoba de.


  16. Indian Idles says:

    I couldn’t agree more. I thought Five point someone was a terrible book as well. But what you do expect from someone who thanks his yoga teacher….

  17. Lambuda says:

    Spot on. But I disagree with the comment on 5.someone. Its cheesy yes, but honest, accurate and insider’s authority? You have to be joking. No 5 pointer worth his salt would write a book for the bourgie masses (brownnosing CB certainly wasn’t one). I’m still waiting
    for the English, August of IIT life: no sex (except for the stray MMS), but plenty of drugs and rock and roll. Oh, and with a few genuine characters, and in English please.

  18. Samanth says:

    And that deus-ex-machina looks suspiciously lifted from “Life of Pi,” where Pi has to decide which is the better story – the one with the tiger in it, or the other one. Not to mention, of course, all of Yann Martel’s own tiger-God allegorisation.

  19. rajiv, I’m not averse to melodrama. I’m averse to badly written books. It’s bad independent of the melodrama.

    Funny_person, where were the ad hominem attacks? I tried to avoid them.

    Lambuda, I’m not an IIT-ian myself, and CB wrote about it far more accurately than I could have.

    Samanth, I haven’t read Life of Pi. Thanks for the tip.

  20. Aditya Kuber says:

    Totally true. I want my Rs 95 back. What a waste of two nights… reading this nonsense. I can’t even find the book again if I looked for it!

  21. sky walker says:

    guys, a piece of information. this book is made into a movie by rohan sippy while chetan bhagat is doing the screenplay for the same. (link below)
    as for FPS vs ON@CC ,the guys who relate to goings on in FPS seem to like it. it s a simple story and seems to have worked in india. some credit must be given to the author.without any publicity his 1st book was a hit, and he has modestly priced his second book to make it more accesible to the youth. most of us have bought a copy of ON@CC only becasue of FPS.

    also this book was the most earliest pirated in india after harry potter . i bought my 50 buck copy at a delhi red light after 1 week of release.
    as for reading it it was mindless trash timepass stuff. somethin like a david dhawan movie.

    but my sense is the book in the coming weeks will be a hit only becasue it purports to some what of a happy ending for the underdog. the guys who made it to IIT/IIM wont undersstand this though, but the normal guy on the street who gets success and recoginition late and is stuck in a vaccum in his life will relate to the story. the vroom, isha,shyam etc etc. will end this book with a warm heart.indians in any case are suckers for happy endings

  22. uma says:

    is it really awful?
    thanks for stopping me from buying it

  23. aqua says:

    your review smacks of envy i think. ON@TCC is a good, value for money read. At 99 bucks you couldn’t ask for a more entertaining read. Chetan bhaghat manages to capture ordinary human lives and related challenges in his simple, unprententious way. I for one liked it a lot. I agree the God bit and the lady in the train bit were in the “yeh baat hazam nahi hua” category, but overall, i don’t think the book deserves the bashing your review gives it.
    i wonder why every mba (iim or otherwise) feel they have to bash Chetan bhagat’s writing.
    end note: your review is too harsh and i guess yazad was right about when he confessed that llibertarians are pompous _____s.

  24. Aqua,

    MBAs bash Chetan Bhagat’s writing because we have an overwhelming need to be diassociated from him. If people start lumping all MBAs along with Chetan Bhagat the consequences would be diasastrous for us.

  25. aqua says:

    we MBAs? no, i would say only pompous liberatarians (PLs) feel this way


  26. First you say it’s MBAs and then you say it’s pompous libertarians. Make up your mind.

  27. A fan says:


    i think the book was gud (except for the final plot to fool the Americans)..the emotions of the couple in love were captured beautifully..i dont understand why u r so hateful abt this book..anyways evryone is entitled to their opinion..

    as an iitian myself, i found his first book excellently capturing all the emotions..and the second book was also quite good(yes i agre..the first question and the ending were bad).

  28. Musings says:

    Well, I believe that the second book isn’t as great as the first one, which did make for innocent and delightful reading but the second book was a little off the mark. However, i have read worst (awarding winning) books and i think it really does not deserve such a beating.

  29. […] After seeing the heat generated by this post, I was reminded of a discussion I had almost two years ago with Arnab. […]

  30. Amit says:

    Did you notice that the ‘which story did you like it part – with god in it or blah blah blah’ was copied shamelessly from Yann Martel’s Life of Pi. Martel should sue Bhagat. Looks like Bhagat hasn’t forgotten the old IIT habit of copying from the next guy in the exams. He’s a shame in the name of India’s two foremost institutes.

  31. anks says:

    i think its an excellent book and u guys are just jealous to give those reviews to that wonderful book!

    i will call it cheap publicity of urselves…lol

    good work CB

    u r d best……….

    eddy teddy is good
    these curly wurlys are bad

    every1 go and buy this book …worth ur money….and let these stupids keep criticizing…

    and the fact all of them bought the book and still read the whole book itself shows they liked it…if they dint like it they could hv stopped reading it ..but still they continued…this in itself proves tht the BOOK IS EXCELLENT…

    All d best CB !

  32. Thanks for the post. For the record, Americans are definitely not stupid. They are just another community of people like Indians are. I have a lot of American friends who are super nice people. For that matter I have Pakistani friends who are so much fun to be around. I agree that people should not buy this book and encourage the bastard to write more crap. What worries me is that there are a sizable number of people who like such oversimplified explanation to their dumb existence….. be it America bashing in this book, or Pakistan bashing in Hindi movies.

    I believe that the world is more complicated, and can’t be thought of using digital logic of good and bad. Anyway. Have you seen Crash?

  33. satish says:

    Just wanted to say that I liked Five point someone. I went by a friends recommendation (and i trust her on books).

    I wonder why many people did not like FPS. maybe because I am an engineer, and it is like… my college life reflecting back. Many tech-school students would relate to the typical average college days, sometimes funny, sometimes dark.

    Anyway, the same friend told me not to read ON@CC. And I wont. 🙂

    By the way, nice review.

  34. Vinay says:

    @ 29
    Amit, Martel can’t sue anyone, he apparently lifted his story from a Brazilian Author Moacyr Scliar’s work “Max and the Cats.” You cannot have a copyright in a work which is copied from another’s. So the upshot is, if you’re copying, copy from something which is already copied, so he can’t sue you for copying. I am not sure if the first guy has recourse against you though.

  35. ‘indians in any case are suckers for happy endings’

    I agree with skywalker. The story ended like a typical bollywood movie. Reminded me of movies ‘inspired’ by hollywood which our filmmakers twisted to satisfy the Indian mind.

    It’s not like I completely hated the book. But I didn’t appreciate it too much either.

  36. Pradeep says:

    Hello everyone

    I have gone through all the comments posted earlier.
    I want to tell one thing that it is easier to comment on someone but really hard to perform.
    If anyone doesnot like this book and he thinks he can write a better book than this and better story than this, then they are really welcomed. Come on guys u have given comment on this book. Now its an open challange to you. Write a book and make it more famous than it. What r u thinking? I know u can not do this.

    What ever it may be i really appreciate the book, in the way all the characters are explained really makes me crazy. By giving comments on it one can not stop its popularity. I am sure about it.

  37. Teesta says:

    The ways in which the book started and finished were both fiascos. something struck me as strange the moment i read the dedication “…with a little bit of help from me”. i was a little taken aback the way he casually referred to his successful attempt at creating twins with his wife. well, anyway, the story gets a little better and i did feel sympathetic for esha after she revealed how she slept with a man to get a modelling contract. the shyam-priyanka relationship is also well-portrayed, but the way they reconcile is preposterous!!! and what is very ridiculous is how bhagat celebrates radhika’s impulsive decision to divorce Anuj while blaming americans.
    there is another part that made me a little unsure. bhagat says he talks of the indian youth in both his novels. but isn’t the novel clearly for and about the bourgeois? that leaves out a large chunk of the youth of india.
    well, i could go on with this, it was too unsettling. except for a few laughs and even fewer good parts, the book was one of the most dissatisfying reads of my life.

  38. […] Chetan Bhagat writes a bad book, it is regrettable. It casts all MBAs in a negative light. People with an appreciation for […]

  39. […] have abused bad books on this blog before. I roasted One Night @ The Call Center and If God was a Banker. But that was only because they were unmitigatedly bad books. On the other […]

  40. […] for not speaking correct Hindi3. Or when he keeps quoting ghazals4. Hate is aroused only by the condescending attitude Chetan Bhagat takes towards his readers in One Night @ The Call Center. Tuhin Sinha takes the whole thing so seriously, that at worst you’ll end up mocking the […]

  41. ANCHAL ARORA says:

    I feel that CB has done a tremendous job in puling out d real soul from our INDIAN YOUTH..nd d ppl criticizing it r d ones who thinkks dere own personality s being naked in 1nyt@cc…secnd catgry of criticizn ppl cud b d ones workin 4 call centres coz at d end d author puts d idea of not 2 work in call centrs..or d ones who r envious of him…gud work CB..go on…let dese criticizin dogs bark…if dey r nt DOGS so dey hav 2 prov demself nd be a macho man 2strng enuf 2 cum in frnt of d world n atleast wryt a singl papr which s worth readin..COME ON N SHOW D WORLD…

  42. rahul says:

    too many crabs here 🙂

  43. Anitha says:

    Look Aadisht, Chetan has got the comman man reading…check out his blog. You will be surprized at how many guys out there have taken to reading their first book at the age of 20 with Chetan’s book. There is no doubt that he has struck a chord with his style of storytelling. That in itself has to be appreciated. He is a little green…and has never claimed to be a great writer…just following his passion…and like it or not making a success of it. As a fellow MBA, you should actually feel proud of his achievement. He has the style that appeals to the common man, someone maybe who has not even done a degree. Chetan is wrting for these guys and getting them to read (and they are obviously loving it, evident from the sales figures) …isn’t that commendable?

    I liked FPS, but not ON@CC and 3 mistakes, for pretty much the same reasons that your review and the posts have mentioned….melodrama, implausible scenes, too simplistic language, factual errors, and Rupa’s printing also leaves much to be desired..

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