Monday, March 17, 2014

Book: Losing My Religion by Vishwas Mudagal

A friend suggested this book to me and also informed me that the author is related to someone I know. The mostly positive reviews on the book too raised my expectation. The Just Books outlet in my area had several copies of the book and I was all set...

At the outset the author informs you that the book is influenced by his own experiences, the people he has met, and the places he has traveled to. Starting with the dedication page and through the first chapter you encounter corporate jargon like "kicking a**", "ruling the world" and so on. The author being an entrepreneur himself, the unabashed praise and paeans to the creed of entrepreneurs strikes you as rather brash.

The story starts with the protagonist Rishi going through a personal crisis. The predicament of Rishi is all too familiar for people connected to the IT industry. A young guy is brimming with ideas to take his gaming related software business to a new level but does not find support with the investors. A classic case of someone believing strongly in something and getting disillusioned when others do not see it the same way. He is forced to close his business. Well, he does get an offer to work with another organization. He views that as a compromise and doesn't want to take the offer. He chucks it all and goes on an unplanned trip around the country. On the way he meets an American traveler Alex, and later a bold and beautiful girl Kyra. The story keeps taking wild turns and calls for some suspension of disbelief from the reader.

For someone smitten by the written word, there are so many genres of books to feast on. Where does Losing My Religion fit in? In the pulp fiction genre. With the likes of Sidney Sheldon, Geoffrey Archer and so on. While reading Losing My Religion, a couple of books I read long ago did cross my mind. Books like Sheldon's If Tomorrow Comes, and Archer's Not A Penny More Not A Penny Less.  The thrill-a-minute nature of story telling. Well, Vishwas Mudagal still has some way to go before he can be compared to those two prolific weavers of improbable tales.

The way I see it, underneath all the breathtaking non stop action, the story is really about the present day pressures of the urban life and about the choices before the youth. About a choice between security and freedom. About conforming and non-conforming to society's expectations of you.

At the end of the book there is a section on some personal information on the author where it says that his favorite fictional character is Howard Roarke, the protagonist in Ayn Rand's novel The Fountainhead. In the way that Rishi reacts at the loss of his enterprise, you see shades of Roarke. A desire to behave in ways that are contrary to a rational understanding. Rishi discards the potentially promising career path and chooses to go looking for new frontiers, new adventures and new places.

Why do I think that the book also says something about the choice between security and freedom? In the first few pages, the author effectively captures the modern day issues faced by the urban young,- like career dissatisfaction, feeling of suffocation, effect of stress on relationships and so on. These are true for a lot of folks just as they happen with Rishi and his buddies. There is often a feeling that one is living someone else’s idea of how to live.

We must remember though that people do not live in a vacuum, and in most cases one's actions and attitudes are interconnected with others, importantly their families. An option to simply go away when things go wrong, like Rishi Rai, does not exist for most. Interestingly, in the story there is no mention of a family connected with Rishi. There is only an ex-girlfriend and another casual friend in his life, and Rishi is free as an Arab to do just as he pleases.

Most people hanging on to the security of a job, driven by deadlines, product release dates, fiscal year ends and so on, can experience the joy of an idiosyncratic and rebellious behavior only in a second-hand way. Through fictional characters like a Rishi Rai in LMR, or a Rancho in 3 Idiots. Probably that explains why that movie and this book have captured the popular imagination so much.

Through the character of Rishi, the author demonstrates an ideal entrepreneur's persona. We see how a true entrepreneur needs to keep the entrepreneurial spirit alive at all times. What the story also makes clear is that a true entrepreneur needs to possess a capacity to cope with insecurity and uncertainty. That is perhaps the price to pay to lead a life of freedom.

It is nice to see that a new book from an Indian writer, with a contemporary theme is attracting a lot of readers.

My Books page has information on the books I have read-

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