Raghu's Reviews > Five Point Someone: What Not to Do at IIT

Five Point Someone by Chetan Bhagat
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's review
Jan 12, 12

it was ok
Read in January, 2012

This was my first Chetan Bhagat book. I was intrigued as to what makes him such a best selling author in India, particularly amongst the young. So, I picked up this one at random and read it.
This novel is about life in the elite Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) in Delhi. Three under-graduate students - Alok, Hari and Ryan - find themseleves in adjacent rooms in Hostel Kumaon at the start of the first semester and become good buddies. Alok is a lower-middle class boy with loads of family problems and responsibilities with his family's future depending on Alok doing well in IIT and getting a good job as a result. Ryan is the son of rich, indifferent parents and has grown up in boarding schools. Hari is the narrator of the story and says little about himself. The three friends bumble through their years and end up at the bottom of the class with a Grade point Average (GPA) of between 5 and 6, where losers generally belong. There is a bit of love interest, a lot of criticism of IITs as a place where GPA and competition are more important than other human values such as compassion and friendship and love etc. Finally, there is a bit of sermonizing about how GPA is not so important and how people with low GPAs may actually be more creative and original than the 'muggers'(Indian English for rote learners) who score high GPAs.

After finishing the book, I think the following are the distinctive features which may be the reason for Bhagat's popularity:
Bhagat has a certain un-Indian irreverence and lack of sentimentality in his writing which may be appealing and refreshing to many young in India who are used to the many 'holy cows' in Indian society and culture. He makes light of the usual respect towards one's teachers, ridicules the culture of elite institutions like the IIT and also writes cynically on aspects of 'puppy love'. Also the book has little by way of the sentimentality that one is so used to in Bollywood and in the culture. Hari is totally unsympathetic and unsentimental about the hardships of Alok's family and Ryan is quite candid about his materialistic relationship with his parents. Hari is also skeptical and cynical about his relationship with his own girlfriend. So, all these are written about in a refreshingly light manner that is uncommon in Indian novels.

However, I wonder if life in IITs are as bookish and GPA-centric as Bhagat makes it out. I have known a lot of IITans and they do not recall their lives there in such poor light. There is also a bit of prejudice and stereo-typing in the caricature of a student named Venkat as a typical South Indian in IIT/Delhi with a high-GPA but as one who is only GPA-focussed and indifferent towards his study-buddy's family problems and human values. It is somewhat similar to Asian-students being viewed in US universities as studious and boring and devoid of fun.

The story itself is often improbable but the author has a sense of humor which makes it easy to read. I don't know if I will buy any more of Bhagat's books to read.
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02/23 marked as: read

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message 1: by Rajat (new)

Rajat Pillai The novel that is making waves around the country, 'Chandragupta:Path of a Fallen Demigod' (NATIONAL BESTSELLER) is now on Flipkart and Infibeam. If your love a fast paced thriller and love Indian history/culture. This novel is for you.

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