Thursday, May 19, 2011

Bala Takes The Plunge by Melvin Durai

If there was a genre called guy-lit, Melvin Durai’s debut novel Bala Takes the Plunge would easily qualify as one. A few pages into the book and I was guffawing at Melvin’s play of words and funny observations. Rajinikant-lovers will be thrilled to encounter some of his famous dialogues in this clever and extremely witty book.

Balasubramaniam Balasubramaniam aka Bala is a big fan of Rajinikant.His ambition is to become a director and make a movie starring the Superstar. Alas, practical aspects push him to pursue an engineering degree at Thiru Harichandran University of Technology (THIT) in Chennai and get “exported” to the US.THIT!! ha ha ha!.In the US, he becomes Bill Balasubramaniam and the director of a company that produces exercise machines. Well settled in a cushy job in a company that excels in deceiving people with infomercials on their exercise machines, Bala realizes that he needs to move on to the next step in life and … gets a dog, which he names America .I know what you are thinking.Cheeky, right?. Hilarious and crazy is what I thought.

Bala wants to get married as he approaches his big 3-0 and takes the help of “How to find the perfect mate in 30 days or less with no help from your parents in India.” He fancies a white girl who works at a store nearby and is secretly thrilled when she makes polite,but random comments. But before he can take things to the next level, disaster strikes and Bala is left stranded on the highway of love.The rest of the story is about how Bala joins activity groups, matrimonial sites and seeks parental intervention to find his“perfect mate”. Funny stuff ,really!

Melvin takes digs at things as diverse as exercise machine commercials,the staggering amounts of waste that America (not the dog;-))generates,role of American dogs,attitude of Chinese suppliers,people who buy Salman Rushdie books just to appear erudite,functional purpose of butts,matrimonial ads ,the SMS lingo and many more random things. Infact, for the first 60 odd pages,there was barely any dialogue and movement in the story ,with the pages filled with wry,witty observations.The book mentions that part of Melvin’s humour columns have been incorporated into the book. Maybe, a huge chunk of the material drawn from the columns went into the first 70 pages. However, after the 70 pages, the narrative gets fast-paced and breezy.

The book’s strength is its unpretentious-ness and Melvin has done a good job at fleshing out Bala’s character-Bala is as believable as it can get.Melvin’s wit shines through the pages and he peppers the book generously with mini-jokes and one-liners. Some of the situations are thoroughly funny like the one in which Bala stands in the queue outside the Chennai American Embassy to get his H1 stamping done and contemplates the prospect of buying a two rupee Bonda. He imagines the Bonda traveling from hand to hand down the queue finally to him, coated in sweat and other “suspect” fluids. I almost fell out of the chair laughing.

Sample some more goodies from the book..

“Your appa and I walk 6 kilometers a day.He walks five kilometers in the morning and I walk one kilometer in the evening.”

American flags arrive at Walmart from a manufacturer in China bearing 53 stars .When demanded an explanation,the Chinese manufacturer says “We give you a good deal-53 stars for the price of 50.” LOL,seriously !.

Overall, a funny book that loved reading.I’ll rate it 3.5/5 and will recommend it to anyone who loves a good no-holds barred laugh. The book is really slim and can be finished in a few hours.I loved the illustration on the cover.So witty,like the rest of the book !

A big thanks to Melvin for sending me the book to review.Looking forward to his next novel.

About the author : Melvin Durai lives with his three Children and Wife in Winnipeg ,Canada and has written hundreds of humour columns in newspapers and magazines.For more information and to read his columns ,head over to his website

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