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.