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Serious Men

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A poignant, bitingly funny Indian satire and love story set in a scientific institute and in Mumbai’s humid tenements. Ayyan Mani, one of the thousands of dalit (untouchable caste) men trapped in Mumbai’s slums, works in the Institute of Theory and Research as the lowly assistant to the director, a brilliant self-assured astronomer. Ever wily and ambitious, Ayyan weaves A poignant, bitingly funny Indian satire and love story set in a scientific institute and in Mumbai’s humid tenements. Ayyan Mani, one of the thousands of dalit (untouchable caste) men trapped in Mumbai’s slums, works in the Institute of Theory and Research as the lowly assistant to the director, a brilliant self-assured astronomer. Ever wily and ambitious, Ayyan weaves two plots, one involving his knowledge of an illicit romance between his married boss and the institute’s first female researcher, and another concerning his young son and his soap-opera-addicted wife. Ayyan quickly finds his deceptions growing intertwined, even as the Brahmin scientists wage war over the question of aliens in outer space. In his debut novel, Manu Joseph expertly picks apart the dynamics of this complex world, offering humorous takes on proselytizing nuns and chronicling the vanquished director serving as guru to his former colleagues. This is at once a moving portrait of love and its strange workings and a hilarious portrayal of men’s runaway egos and ambitions. .


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A poignant, bitingly funny Indian satire and love story set in a scientific institute and in Mumbai’s humid tenements. Ayyan Mani, one of the thousands of dalit (untouchable caste) men trapped in Mumbai’s slums, works in the Institute of Theory and Research as the lowly assistant to the director, a brilliant self-assured astronomer. Ever wily and ambitious, Ayyan weaves A poignant, bitingly funny Indian satire and love story set in a scientific institute and in Mumbai’s humid tenements. Ayyan Mani, one of the thousands of dalit (untouchable caste) men trapped in Mumbai’s slums, works in the Institute of Theory and Research as the lowly assistant to the director, a brilliant self-assured astronomer. Ever wily and ambitious, Ayyan weaves two plots, one involving his knowledge of an illicit romance between his married boss and the institute’s first female researcher, and another concerning his young son and his soap-opera-addicted wife. Ayyan quickly finds his deceptions growing intertwined, even as the Brahmin scientists wage war over the question of aliens in outer space. In his debut novel, Manu Joseph expertly picks apart the dynamics of this complex world, offering humorous takes on proselytizing nuns and chronicling the vanquished director serving as guru to his former colleagues. This is at once a moving portrait of love and its strange workings and a hilarious portrayal of men’s runaway egos and ambitions. .

30 review for Serious Men

  1. 4 out of 5

    Rajat Ubhaykar

    If cynicism is what passes for wisdom among the mediocre, Manu Joseph is terrific at being mediocre. India has found its Tom Wolfe in him, a contemporary master of satire who writes eminently readable novels about losers who make bitingly funny observations about an inquitous world built and inherited by the accidental victors of history. He is unsparing and delightful in his politically incorrect barbs and no one escapes his scrutiny, not even the poor, whom Indian writers usually describe with If cynicism is what passes for wisdom among the mediocre, Manu Joseph is terrific at being mediocre. India has found its Tom Wolfe in him, a contemporary master of satire who writes eminently readable novels about losers who make bitingly funny observations about an inquitous world built and inherited by the accidental victors of history. He is unsparing and delightful in his politically incorrect barbs and no one escapes his scrutiny, not even the poor, whom Indian writers usually describe with a touch of obligatory compassion. His humour derives its force from a strange truth. That everything becomes absurd if observed closely enough, like a word loses its meaning if you stare at it long and hard, and breaks down into the assemblage of letters it is. Basically, if there's one Indian writer whom I'd gladly have a drink with, it's Manu Joseph. Serious Men covers diverse ground in its 300-odd pages: caste in urban India, the scientific pursuit of truth, politics in academia, the exhilaration of illicit love, and of course, the bloodless war of the Brahmins. I won't spoil it any further. You must discover it for yourself.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Gorab Jain

    What a lip smacking delicious book! Here's the recipe : 1. Take a wickedly genius lower class Dalit's story. 2. Add space scientists from ISRO. Sprinkle research science jargons.. and mock them up. 3. The usual spices - office politics, extra marital love affair, child prodigy. 4. Mix everything with keen observations gently. Ensure the story stays simple and linear. 5. Pour cold blooded rib tickling laughter generously. Treat with fumes of tear jerking laughing gas. 6. Ready! Now serve it in a super What a lip smacking delicious book! Here's the recipe : 1. Take a wickedly genius lower class Dalit's story. 2. Add space scientists from ISRO. Sprinkle research science jargons.. and mock them up. 3. The usual spices - office politics, extra marital love affair, child prodigy. 4. Mix everything with keen observations gently. Ensure the story stays simple and linear. 5. Pour cold blooded rib tickling laughter generously. Treat with fumes of tear jerking laughing gas. 6. Ready! Now serve it in a super deceiving title and cover! "If you stare long enough at serious people they will begin to appear comical." Manu Joseph, you've earned one more fan. Will follow all of your works. Thanks Arvind (not the book character!) and Smitha for this wonderful recommendation. Felt a bit dragged down between 50% to 80%, but graciously picked up.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Supreeth

    'To me, satire is like porn, but Indian satire is, climax.' - Chuck Plahniuk, author of Fight Club 'Indian crackheads are boring, they're real lowlives. They don't read Les Miserables or talk existentialism, they just sprawl on the roads at night, I hate such junkies, I wouldn't have written about them in thousand years.' - Irvine Welsh, author of Trainspotting 'I'm not sure if I would've written something like Less than Zero or American Psycho if I was an Indian, they got something else to deal 'To me, satire is like porn, but Indian satire is, climax.' - Chuck Plahniuk, author of Fight Club 'Indian crackheads are boring, they're real lowlives. They don't read Les Miserables or talk existentialism, they just sprawl on the roads at night, I hate such junkies, I wouldn't have written about them in thousand years.' - Irvine Welsh, author of Trainspotting 'I'm not sure if I would've written something like Less than Zero or American Psycho if I was an Indian, they got something else to deal with, not hedonism, not Reaganian greed, I guess it's just bollywood, caste and stuff like that. I wouldn't want to dumb down my book.' - Bret Easton Ellis, author of Less than Zero 'I don't see a horny engineering student, and one special pink snowflake of a girl dancing in rains. So, I don't really see the point of this book, anyway it was funny here and there.' - Chetan Bhagat, an author (allegedly) 'I don't know, I'm so cute, I've got girls to buy my books.' - Dutta 'I'm just glad nobody was offended' - Manu Joseph, author of Serious Men

  4. 5 out of 5

    Vani

    Manu Jospeh's 'Serious Men' presents a caricaturised sketch of the world of the geniuses as seen through the eyes of an ordinary man, at times a nobody, at other times the main protagonist of the story. As this man walks in and out of his day job, he cleverly observes these people, hating them for their superciliousness, leaving not a chance to poke fun at them (albeit most of this happens from the confines of his den). However, secretly, he also aspires to be like them for that is the only way ​Manu Jospeh's 'Serious Men' presents a caricaturised sketch of the world of the geniuses as seen through the eyes of an ordinary man, at times a nobody, at other times the main protagonist of the story. As this man walks in and out of his day job, he cleverly observes these people, hating them for their superciliousness, leaving not a chance to poke fun at them (albeit most of this happens from the confines of his den). However, secretly, he also aspires to be like them for that is the only way he thinks he can 'elevate himself above the banality of his everyday life'. Will he, won't he? And how would he? Ayyan Mani is an underpaid clerk who works at a top institute of India with some of the best brains of the country (somehow all brahmins!). He lives in a dingy Mumbai chawal (the meanest of the places to live, I hear) and has no more than a tiny room to call his own which he shares with his wife and one child. His life revolves around his job and his family, which is how he fears it will end unless he does something about it. Desperate to get out of the rat hole where he lives and make his life better than everybody else he knows, he concocts an ingenious plan, one that involves his half deaf son (who everybody thinks is a genius). And from there, starts this story. How will Ayyan use his son's proclaimed genius to achieve his dreams? Will he be successful in fooling the brahmin clique at the institute where he works? How will he pull the farce? Manu Joseph's characters are lively and his plot imaginative. His is a piquant wit, evident in the way he has peppered this story with voyeurism, conmanship and illicit liasions. 'Serious Men' is an award winning novel and I had high expectations from it. It fulfilled all of those. Loved this novel and look forward to many more from this author.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Payal Das

    I really feel that I should have read Serious Men first before going on to Manu Joseph's second book, The Illicit Happiness of Other People. Not to take anything away from Serious Men, which is an exceptional, and a very courageous debut at that, but Joseph's second book is a tour de force which takes you to an entirely different level of cherished literary hangover. Serious Men is a work, where so many things happen at so many levels, so many issues are tackled or brought forward, that you tend I really feel that I should have read Serious Men first before going on to Manu Joseph's second book, The Illicit Happiness of Other People. Not to take anything away from Serious Men, which is an exceptional, and a very courageous debut at that, but Joseph's second book is a tour de force which takes you to an entirely different level of cherished literary hangover. Serious Men is a work, where so many things happen at so many levels, so many issues are tackled or brought forward, that you tend to lose your way at places, but Joseph does manage to bring you back to the shore deftly. Joseph's prose is again sparkling, racy, his vitriolic sarcasm and ready wit regaling you in almost every page. The book is full of myriad characters, with their individual quirks and idiosyncrasies masterfully described, but for me the standout performance was always Ayyan Mani's. Ayyan is the rogue who went to Mensa, he is the Everyman, and also the Big Brother, with eyes and ears everywhere, he is the little big man of his 'chawl' society, and also the Dalit secretary who decides to wage war on his Brahmin superiors, and how! Ayyan's scheming mind is a puzzle that you revel in unravelling, and every time you feel that 'this is it, this time Ayyan Mani, you have gone too far, you and your lot are done for', the man comes up with yet another ace up his sleeve... Sometimes it's absurd, it's crazy, it's like hitting the jackpot, but you never stop rooting for him and his son Adi, his puppet extraordinaire, because of the very familiar middle-class yearnings that makes him do what he does. It's also because of the very real treatment of the prevalent class divide, which becomes a direct catalyst for the supposed 'intellect-divide', that you are not forced to suspend your disbelief anywhere. The plot, though having parts, where you are somewhat taken for a ride, a "balloon ride" at that, is ultimately grounded in the base realities of living in a honeycomb-chawl, the Indian attitude towards education and prodigies, the hypocritical behaviour that one encounters at every strata of society, where serious scientists can drop the mask of politeness and engage in washing dirty linen in public just like politicians, where infatuation turns to obsession, and betrayal is a double-edged knife... How does one rise above all this? Ask Ayyan Mani, the seriously ultimate "Un-serious Man".

  6. 5 out of 5

    Meera

    Insane !

  7. 4 out of 5

    AlcoholBooksCinema

    In the world that lay outside his home, there was no right or wrong. Every moment was a battle, and the cunning won.After the book's release, Anil Luthra, Metro Editor from The Times of India had published what people said about this book.Holy Shit. My job is in danger - Stephen HawkingIf I had a father like Ayyan Mani, I would've been a better person, avoided plagiarism, and co-founded something original. This book changed my perception towards life. - Bill GatesI want to meet Ayyan Mani. I In the world that lay outside his home, there was no right or wrong. Every moment was a battle, and the cunning won.After the book's release, Anil Luthra, Metro Editor from The Times of India had published what people said about this book.Holy Shit. My job is in danger - Stephen HawkingIf I had a father like Ayyan Mani, I would've been a better person, avoided plagiarism, and co-founded something original. This book changed my perception towards life. - Bill GatesI want to meet Ayyan Mani. I think he'll be quite serviceable in conquering the Seven Kingdoms - Tyrion LannisterAny person can set his foot on the moon, or you know, fake the moon landing. But what Ayyan Mani attempted, requires nerves of steel - Buzz AldrinIf you want to know about India, read a book written by a South Indian - Salman RushdieThis book made me cry. I think I finally have the sequel for Taare Zameen Par. The title will be Aliens Zameen Par. And, I will be playing the role of Jana Namboodiri - Aamir KhanAditya Mani reminded me of my childhood - Tathagat Avatar TulsiI can now walk with my head held high. Ayyan Mani has achieved what some of the great people couldn't. He made us black demons proud. I think it's time he pays me a visit and extends his support in the fight for the reservations in the hell. - Valampuri John

  8. 5 out of 5

    Cbj

    ***SPOILERS ALERT*** Serious Men is one of the best heist novels that I have read in my life. It is not about a bank robbery or about jewel thieves. It is about a Dalit man Ayaan Mani who is trying to steal the question paper of one of the toughest exams in India, so that his son can escape their rotten existence in a Mumbai chawl and become a scientist/teacher in one of India's most prestigious institutions - the Institute of Theory and Research. Serious Men is a great science fiction novel. A ***SPOILERS ALERT*** Serious Men is one of the best heist novels that I have read in my life. It is not about a bank robbery or about jewel thieves. It is about a Dalit man Ayaan Mani who is trying to steal the question paper of one of the toughest exams in India, so that his son can escape their rotten existence in a Mumbai chawl and become a scientist/teacher in one of India's most prestigious institutions - the Institute of Theory and Research. Serious Men is a great science fiction novel. A lot of the novel is set in the Institute of Theory and Research. The genius astronomer Aravind Acharya who heads the institution, believes the Big Bang is nothing but a Christian conspiracy and is trying to discover alien life. Ayaan Mani is a clerk at this institution and he plays the rivalries between Acharya and his enemies to his own advantage. Serious Men has elements of the paranormal. Arvind Acharya believes in the findings of Benjamin Libet's experiments - there is no such thing as free will. So what really inspires human actions? Acharya goes a little further and believes nature is playing a game with us and there is some mysterious purpose to all that is going on. Male-female relationships in a strictly monogamous society filled with rampant sexual jealousy and rivalry is a major theme in Serious Men. Oparna Goshmaulik is the only female employee at the Institute of Theory and Research and all the men covet her. But she is enamored by the powerful Aravind Acharya and when they work together on the project to discover alien life, both are overwhelmed by their feelings for each other. Finally, Serious men is one of the most original novels about caste and class in India. Manu Joseph's tone is never sanctimonious and he dishes it out to the rich as well as the poor. There are parts of this novel that are hilarious but you also gulp and feel bad that you're laughing because the realities of chawl life are truly horrifying. And deep in your heart you know that most of the chawl dwellers will never escape, despite their aspirations. They are born into this (as Bukowski said). I said that it is original because in the end, Ayaan Mani the Dalit steps aside and aids in the victory of the "good Brahmin" over the nutty fundamentalist Brahmins at the institute. Manu Joseph effortlessly combines all these genres and the result is fantastic. This book reminded me of some of the Malayalam movies of the 1980s and 1990s that would combine a lot of genres. Manu Joseph is more irreverent, effortlessly hilarious, offensive and brilliant than some of the writers and actors who worked in those wonderful movies.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Srinidhi

    Thank you, Manu Joseph, for this gem. What tickled me the most about Manu Joseph's 'Serious Men' (apart from the humour of his witty and observant sarcasm), are two retrospective qualities (that i felt the book has after i finished it) - the amazing simplicity of the story and its complete plausibility. It is a powerfully written tale of a man (and a few serious men) that is not entirely impossible, and i almost secretly wished these men and that man existed already, that the story were true. Thank you, Manu Joseph, for this gem. What tickled me the most about Manu Joseph's 'Serious Men' (apart from the humour of his witty and observant sarcasm), are two retrospective qualities (that i felt the book has after i finished it) - the amazing simplicity of the story and its complete plausibility. It is a powerfully written tale of a man (and a few serious men) that is not entirely impossible, and i almost secretly wished these men and that man existed already, that the story were true. Manu's sense of literary justice is remarkable - his protagonist, a man of small stature and means, was no better off at the end of the story than at its beginning, but between the first page and the last (which are almost the same) Manu shows him as a man with schemes so grand that not even Machiavelli could have thought up better - but for all the cunning of Ayyan, a humanity remains. This novel merits being read, and read again. By anyone interested in good fiction, or in the study of sarcasm as a tool in modern literary fiction, or in the massive humanity of India. It shows how grand fiction can be in the hands of someone with such keen powers of observation - i love the fact that this is only his first novel! Things are going to be even more better! Character, is blood pressure. Salute, Manu. Best, Srinidhi.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Paul

    Comic and sharply witty novel which has so many targets in its sight that it can be rather confusing. Joseph does however hit many of the targets rather well. Joseph targets the layering of Indian society; Brahmins and Dalits, education, marital relations, political corruption, particularly deliciously the scientific community and the search for extra-terrestial life (along with the future of physics)and the nature of love. Ayyan Mani works in administration in a scientific institute where there Comic and sharply witty novel which has so many targets in its sight that it can be rather confusing. Joseph does however hit many of the targets rather well. Joseph targets the layering of Indian society; Brahmins and Dalits, education, marital relations, political corruption, particularly deliciously the scientific community and the search for extra-terrestial life (along with the future of physics)and the nature of love. Ayyan Mani works in administration in a scientific institute where there are great tensions between the entirely Brahmin scientists. Mani exploits these tensions in hilarious ways. Watch out for the daily quotes, they are priceless. Mani also plays games by pretending his son is a genius and feeding him information to back this up. The arrival of an attractive female scientist also creates chaos. Joseph also has fun with SETI and even some of the laws of physics are not entirely immune from his wit. On the whole this works well; Mani's game playing, the squabbling scientists and sexual tension make a light and amusing mix. There are a few jarring moments and the sheer variety of the satirical targets means that not every single one is a bullseye. It's not great literature, but it's great fun and reads easily; the satire though is really rather good.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Marie

    I found this book to be disappointing and sexist. Read my full review here: http://mariesbookgarden.blogspot.com/...

  12. 4 out of 5

    Asha Seth

    "How serious is this book about Serious Men?" I asked my friend mockingly, who couldn't help but recommend this book to me at every turn of any bookish conversation. "Not very much and at the same time, totally," he said. I could not make a word of it but then thought to myself, could it really hurt to try? . . And one fine sleepless night, tired from the lack of doing anything serious I dived into SERIOUS MEN. I confess it has been one of my best uncalculated decisions that has made my self-belief "How serious is this book about Serious Men?" I asked my friend mockingly, who couldn't help but recommend this book to me at every turn of any bookish conversation. "Not very much and at the same time, totally," he said. I could not make a word of it but then thought to myself, could it really hurt to try? . . And one fine sleepless night, tired from the lack of doing anything serious I dived into SERIOUS MEN. I confess it has been one of my best uncalculated decisions that has made my self-belief about random reading even stronger. . . Ayyan Mani, has been against casteism and the fact how his forefathers; who were dalits, suffered at the hands of Brahmins, is at the heart of this story. He does not want a similar fate for his son Aditya, and quite literally, Ayyan leaves no stone unturned to blur away the dalit stigma that has leached onto their lives, threatening to debauch his son's future. . . Everyone else in the story, Arvind Acharya, the Director of the Institute where Ayyan works, Oparna, Lavanya Arvind, Jana Nambodari, Oja Mani, etc, fill the gaps to be pedestals to Ayyan's schemes and to complete his story and the fight against casteism. . . Manu Joseph is a meticulous writer, not only in his prose but his thinking. His stellar attempt at satire blended with bone-tickling humor, and the eye for details, make this book a masterpiece. I wasn't able to put it down, simply because the stories of Ayyan, of Arvind, of Oparna, and the many hundreds living at BDD, are a part of our very own ecosytem in Mumbai. . . Proper review to follow.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Tanuj Solanki

    first appeared in a different form in The New Indian Express After reading Manu Joseph’s 2010 debut novel, Serious Men, one of the questions on my mind was: why isn’t the book ten times as popular as it is? A novel as entertaining as this one is rare to find – add to that the fact that it also makes cogent remarks about Brahminism, about Indian parents’ atrocious ambitions for their children, and about illicit love. Serious Men doesn’t read like the work of a debutante. Perhaps Joseph’s long first appeared in a different form in The New Indian Express After reading Manu Joseph’s 2010 debut novel, Serious Men, one of the questions on my mind was: why isn’t the book ten times as popular as it is? A novel as entertaining as this one is rare to find – add to that the fact that it also makes cogent remarks about Brahminism, about Indian parents’ atrocious ambitions for their children, and about illicit love. Serious Men doesn’t read like the work of a debutante. Perhaps Joseph’s long experience in print journalism explains that. The novel won the Hindu literary prize in 2010, but if one took this information to regard it as a dead serious work of literary fiction, one would be wrong. Serious Men is a fun novel about serious themes, with the fun aspect clearly given greater priority. (Partial) Synopsis: Ayyan Mani, a Dalit man raising his family in a Bombay chawl, is witness to (and somewhat contributes to) great upheavals at his workplace. As a secretary to the director of the government-funded Institute of Theory and Research (located somewhere in the south of south Bombay), Mani sees the professional and personal life of the incumbent director, Arvind Acharya, dismantle. This dismantling is soon followed by the rise of another character, Nambodiri, to the same post. Towards the end, Mani forms an alliance with the beleaguered Acharya and orchestrates his resurgence at the expense of Nambodiri. Mani has his reasons. The above synopsis explains only one of the narrative threads inside the novel. After Serious Men came out, the most immediate responses were directed at its desire to showcase the Dalit point of view in English. Joseph has indeed done well in penning Ayyan Mani’s states of mind and his interactions with various characters, most notably his wife, Oja Mani, and his eleven year-old son, Aditya Mani. Also, his deep contempt for caste-based privilege and his view of Dalit oppression as having a three thousand year continuity drive home a point. At first, as the power struggle between the top scientists heats up in the institute, Mani sees it only as ‘the battle of the Brahmins’, one that he should only observe and be entertained by. But there is another thread that is as central to the novel and as well-managed, and attracted little to no critical attention: the love story between Arvind Acharya and his younger colleague, Oparna Goshmaulik. For me, Joseph’s narration excelled the most in the slow development, denouement and dismemberment of this relationship. At first, the two share coy signals, perhaps even inadvertently. Then the shadowy game of seduction begins. Acharya resists and resists, until he relents. Then there are the first two weeks of passion, after which Acharya suddenly decides to terminate the affair. The curve of this relationship is so painstakingly and patiently drawn that it assumes a reality for us readers. After that point, it is only the consequences of that termination play out. I sincerely hope someone makes a movie based on the novel.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Em*bedded-in-books*

    A satirical look into the world of Indian science, bureaucracy, the age-old conflicts between the haves and havenots, and sort of a battle between the sexes. An engrossing first half with a not so bad second half . Ayyan Mani, the Dalit clerk to the Brahmin scientists interpolated himself into all affairs of the Science and technology institute, where two Brahmin giants are battling out their opposing views about alien invasion. Oporna, the clever female scientist becomes crucial to their A satirical look into the world of Indian science, bureaucracy, the age-old conflicts between the haves and havenots, and sort of a battle between the sexes. An engrossing first half with a not so bad second half . Ayyan Mani, the Dalit clerk to the Brahmin scientists interpolated himself into all affairs of the Science and technology institute, where two Brahmin giants are battling out their opposing views about alien invasion. Oporna, the clever female scientist becomes crucial to their battle. Ayyan gets his chance many a time to further the portrayal of his son Adi, as a child prodigy as well as to directly and indirectly interfere with the affairs of the institute, literally as well as figuratively. A thoroughly enjoyable read, which did a lot to restore my faith in the contemporary Indian English authors. Would recommend this to anyone who likes scathing sarcasm thrown in without much window dressing.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Girish

    This book of grey humour is not for serious men. Or at least not meant to be read as a social commentary if you are the type to take offence. Maybe, if you don't take offence, you can read it as a social commentary. The book has simple plots that revolves around ordinary people who have their grand schemes and ambitions. And the envious neighbors, hungry media, votebank politicians,passionate scientists (and science), vengeful lovers and office politics make for a fun light read. Manu Joseph This book of grey humour is not for serious men. Or at least not meant to be read as a social commentary if you are the type to take offence. Maybe, if you don't take offence, you can read it as a social commentary. The book has simple plots that revolves around ordinary people who have their grand schemes and ambitions. And the envious neighbors, hungry media, votebank politicians,passionate scientists (and science), vengeful lovers and office politics make for a fun light read. Manu Joseph writes such incisive, sarcastic and cynical one liners that you could quote and seem intellectual. Some of the lines are absolute gems. The author has taken a dig at the caste system, Govt Research organizations, mediahouses and ambitious parents. He succeeds in creating people who could exist around the corner. On characters, Ayyan Mani and Aravind Acharya are people whom you wouldn't normally root for but you root for them anyway. The women in the book Oja and Oparna are slightly stereotyped but then strong in their own way. Adi the 'genius' kid has the bearings of a pawn. Thoroughly enjoyed this book.Look forward to reading his much more acclaimed next book!

  16. 4 out of 5

    Kaustubh Kaluskar

    Book is fun to read. You will not find something expressed beautifully in a page or two. What you will find is a sentence here and there rich in wisdom/satire and crafted in perfect way. Author has succeeded in not giving any extra space to any sentiment than it needs. This is perhaps one of the few books of which I have read every printed word. There are many instances in the novel where one thing is compared to other for example brahmins vs dalits. In most of the books/stories I have read, Book is fun to read. You will not find something expressed beautifully in a page or two. What you will find is a sentence here and there rich in wisdom/satire and crafted in perfect way. Author has succeeded in not giving any extra space to any sentiment than it needs. This is perhaps one of the few books of which I have read every printed word. There are many instances in the novel where one thing is compared to other for example brahmins vs dalits. In most of the books/stories I have read, whenever there is a comparison of this sort one of the side comes out in a very negative way. Author has successfully managed not to let that happen. Author is an editor of New Delhi based magazine and before that he was in Mumbai in TOI group. I think that trainig as journalist is what reflected most in here. I was not engrossed in the novel. I did not feel the happiness/sorrow/pains observed by any of the characters. I was not rooting for any character. It was like I was reding a news story, a very interesting news story but I was not fully absorbed in the lives of the characters. This is just an observation. Lastly about the opening lines. I did not know that even writers repeat their metaphors. I remember an article by same author when he was covering India tour of Pakistan for Outlook (I think 2002). In that he used same metaphor of something like a boy having a hairline which was fine because it was not made by British or something of that effect. If you are kind of person who is not much into heavy lit or for a change want to read something which is easy to read and yet not trash, go for this. In between the pges you will find sentences of profound wisdom on which you can dwell upon if you have time.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Sudhir Pai

    Don't go by the title of this book. I have a feeling the title probably drove many curious readers away. Once you convince yourself to go past the baffling cover, you'll discover what I believe is possibly one of the best satires on urban India. While this unputtdownable 300-odd-page debut novel of Manu Joseph is a simple story of heist, it is a fantastic social commentary of India's caste politics, life in Mumbai, government-funded research institutes, media, sexism at work, and parenting. Don't go by the title of this book. I have a feeling the title probably drove many curious readers away. Once you convince yourself to go past the baffling cover, you'll discover what I believe is possibly one of the best satires on urban India. While this unputtdownable 300-odd-page debut novel of Manu Joseph is a simple story of heist, it is a fantastic social commentary of India's caste politics, life in Mumbai, government-funded research institutes, media, sexism at work, and parenting. There aren't any stand out chapters, but the book is interspersed with lots of quotable lines that are typically loaded with wit and sarcasm. If you have an appetite for it, Serious Men is 7-course meal for those readers who've been starved of politically incorrect humour. But you are warned, if you tend to take offence, some content will be hard to digest.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Erwin

    After a slow start (too slow) and several moments when I almost gave up, the story finally picked up the pace and a deviously funny story unfolded. This book will get a positive rating. His second novel, The Illicit Happiness of Other People, is way better, though!!

  19. 5 out of 5

    Danial Tanvir

    i actually did like this book. it is based in india. it is about an indian man called ayyan mani who lives in bombay. actually this book is based in bombay. its all about his son adi , his full name is adi mani. he talks about life outside earth and about Extraterrestrial intelligence. he has a wife called oja mani. he has a son called aditya mani or simple known as adi mani . his son is a genuis. thats what his teachers think so. he is very brilliant and knowns a lot. he wins a scholarship to study in i actually did like this book. it is based in india. it is about an indian man called ayyan mani who lives in bombay. actually this book is based in bombay. its all about his son adi , his full name is adi mani. he talks about life outside earth and about Extraterrestrial intelligence. he has a wife called oja mani. he has a son called aditya mani or simple known as adi mani . his son is a genuis. thats what his teachers think so. he is very brilliant and knowns a lot. he wins a scholarship to study in switzerland. he is among the few to be selected for that from his country he then participates in a test and he gives a lot of correct answers. he was truly a genuis knowing so much only at the age of ten. every one is impressed with him and with how much he knows. his mother says that she just wants him to be a normal child. people tell his father about how great he is and that he should be very proud of him. he wants to sit for the JET exam but he is told that that is very tough and that only a few people from thousands of children make it but he still wants to try to do that. there is more talk about aliens and life out side earth. adi knows a lot about maths and he knows the first thousand prime numbers. the rest of the book revolves around adi and his being a genuis. people are very impressed by him and tell his parents that they should be very proud and happy to have such a son. in the end , people suspect that this is all a fraud and that he is not a genuis as he is seen to be. this was a splendid read but it took me many days to read it.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Tnahsin Garg

    “A man cannot be exactly the way he wants to be and also dream of keeping his wife.” Studded with such cutting one-liners and paragraphs of piercing satire, "Serious Men" is seriously a comic read. What I like about Joseph is that he does not spare anyone. Whether its a poor Dalit clerk with an apparently-genius son or its the narcissist Brahmin, director of the fictional scientific institute in Mumbai - Joseph tears every character apart one by one, and yet you can't help liking them. From the “A man cannot be exactly the way he wants to be and also dream of keeping his wife.” Studded with such cutting one-liners and paragraphs of piercing satire, "Serious Men" is seriously a comic read. What I like about Joseph is that he does not spare anyone. Whether its a poor Dalit clerk with an apparently-genius son or its the narcissist Brahmin, director of the fictional scientific institute in Mumbai - Joseph tears every character apart one by one, and yet you can't help liking them. From the mundane married life of the clerk to the exotic extra-marital affair of the director, Joseph's observations appear to suggest that he has seen it all, and now for the benefit of the reader, he's giving an unsparing account of a truth which is greater than reality. Joseph is essentially a misanthrope, and misanthropes are always fun to read. Here's another quote from the book, "The tragedy of mediocrity is that even mediocre people shake their heads and mull over how “standards are falling”." Final Verdict : If you're on a lookout for good, contemporary Indian writing that gives a biting portrayal of Indians engaged in grand pursuits of truth and knowledge, or you're simply looking for some plain, black humor - this is the book for you.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Abhyudaya Shrivastava

    This was a good way to end my reading sabbatical of 2018. Serious Men is a story of class and gender conflict. The author has spilled wit on every page and even the misogyny is funny. Ayyan Mani is a clerk in a Scientific Research Institute which is dominated by Upper Caste men. Men who are way too serious about silly stuff like aliens and gravity (or so Ayyan assumes the case to be). Ayyan lives an ordinary life in a chawl in Mumbai with his wife Oja and son Adi. The son is no genius but like This was a good way to end my reading sabbatical of 2018. Serious Men is a story of class and gender conflict. The author has spilled wit on every page and even the misogyny is funny. Ayyan Mani is a clerk in a Scientific Research Institute which is dominated by Upper Caste men. Men who are way too serious about silly stuff like aliens and gravity (or so Ayyan assumes the case to be). Ayyan lives an ordinary life in a chawl in Mumbai with his wife Oja and son Adi. The son is no genius but like all children, he does possess a streak of talent for cramming facts. So, Ayyan feeds him facts and makes him seem like a genius at school. The prank gets more and more serious as days pass and soon, there is a point of no return. The institute's head Acharya is a conceited patriarch who is the cynosure of his peers' eyes. Office politics and affairs constitute the sub-plots in the novel. The book reads at a brisk pace and has many funny one-liners that underline Manu's talent as an author. Definitely worth a re-read.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Gerhard

    'Mahabharata’s great war, with its flying machines and mystical missiles, he said, was fought using extraterrestrial technologies that were later mistaken as the hallucinations of poets.' Review to follow.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Wiebke (1book1review)

    I really liked the writing and social commentary and picture it portrayed. However, I felt the plot a little lacking to keep me super invested and excited past the first 100 pages. Still worth reading, but not a must read.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Mathis Bailey

    More like a serious disappointment. I really wanted to like Serious Men, given the eye-catching title and beautiful Hindu cover-art, however, it just didn't deliver. The story started off at a snail pace. It almost felt as if it didn't have a motive. But it picked up a quarter the way in. I found the writing pretty good, but heavy in detail. I guess that's the author's journalist background coming through. I thought the author spent way too much time narrating. And the astronomy scenes almost More like a serious disappointment. I really wanted to like Serious Men, given the eye-catching title and beautiful Hindu cover-art, however, it just didn't deliver. The story started off at a snail pace. It almost felt as if it didn't have a motive. But it picked up a quarter the way in. I found the writing pretty good, but heavy in detail. I guess that's the author's journalist background coming through. I thought the author spent way too much time narrating. And the astronomy scenes almost made me fall asleep with all the scientific gab. The only saving grace that kept me reading was the protagonist's crazy schemes. I kept wondering how will Ayyan get out of the mess he'd created. And I couldn't help but to root for him to come out on top. But the enjoyment ends there. The premise just didn't gel well with me. The whole love affair subplot was lacklustered. I could careless about an old, fat, man getting his freak on with is co-worker. And the ending was a big disappointment. It seemed as though the author didn't know how to wrap up the story.(spoiler)It was like he threw in a raging mob and called it a day, which left a plot hole. It could have been so much better. Synopsis: It tells two stories. The first story is about an Indian clerk, Ayyan, who is from a low caste called the Dalits. He works at this Research and Theory Institute where he is treated like trash by a bunch of snobby,sexist,Brahmin astronomers. He cleverly tries to improve his social status by cooking up schemes to makes his son appear a science genius. The second story is about a shrewd Brahmin director, Acharya, who falls into an enticing love affair with a colleague, which places his marriage and his big balloon project in jeopardy. Over all, I found the Brahmin and Dalit historical rivalry interesting along with the Hindu mythology theories about them being aliens. But that's about it. I really didn't have any emotional connection with the characters, except for Ayyan. I would only recommend this book if you liked "The White Tiger" by Adiga, and have affinity for scientific lit. 2.5 stars. Just wasn't my cup of tea.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Megha Sreeram

    The book gives, in a nutshell, what the two extremes of the Indian social sector think of each other, of the world around it and the media. I had heard a lot about Manu Joseph, the author, and hence was curious when I saw his name on the library bookshelf. I wouldn't call myself too happy, but this one was a good book. Ayyan Mani is sole breadwinner of a family of three, living in a chawl in Mumbai. The initial pages of the book give a good description of Ayyan and the way his mind works. He The book gives, in a nutshell, what the two extremes of the Indian social sector think of each other, of the world around it and the media. I had heard a lot about Manu Joseph, the author, and hence was curious when I saw his name on the library bookshelf. I wouldn't call myself too happy, but this one was a good book. Ayyan Mani is sole breadwinner of a family of three, living in a chawl in Mumbai. The initial pages of the book give a good description of Ayyan and the way his mind works. He works in a premier research institute in the country and his boss is Arvind Acharya, a brahmin, who is also the head of the institute. Ayyan's eleven-year-old son has hearing difficulty in one ear and asks weird questions to his teachers in his class. Ayyan stimulates his son's thinking by encouraging this behaviour and buying him books. A newcomer to the institute, Oparna, becomes the centre of Arvind's attraction. This is followed by power struggles between different sections of brahmins in the institute, which tests Ayyan's loyalties. The story revolves around the lives of Ayyan's family, Arvind's family, the institute and the politics within and the role of the media in this entire maze. I loved the descriptions in the book. They are vivid and detailed, making me picturise as the story flows. The tale gets a push in its rear only after page 285 though. Till then one gotta be patient. After page 285, the story becomes fast and sees to it that all the loose ends are firmly tied. I would give portions of this book numerous re-reads since I loved the mind-voices of the characters in it. I would also seek Manu Joseph's other titles for his witty jibes and sarcasm. Pro tip- Don't miss those thoughts for the day jibes from Ayyan. Worth the time.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Prateek Agarwal

    Don't be mislead by the title. 'Serious Men' is nothing serious. At one level it is a story of men who have a purpose (or so they think) in their life. At another level it is a story of people who are at the extreme ends of India's caste society. We have a dalit who thinks that brahmins have always had it easy, and it's just their stratum who have been left to face the World in all its challenging glory. He plots a script in which his 11-year old deaf son is transformed into a child prodigy who Don't be mislead by the title. 'Serious Men' is nothing serious. At one level it is a story of men who have a purpose (or so they think) in their life. At another level it is a story of people who are at the extreme ends of India's caste society. We have a dalit who thinks that brahmins have always had it easy, and it's just their stratum who have been left to face the World in all its challenging glory. He plots a script in which his 11-year old deaf son is transformed into a child prodigy who can recite the first 1000 prime numbers, crack one of the toughest exams in the country and leave his teachers baffled with questions that do not have an answer. In doing so he hopes to climb the ladder of the social divide, leaving his peers at the bottom rung. Because you can 'hate' your enemies, but 'envy' is only reserved for friends. We also have scientists working at the Institute of Theory & Research, who believe it is their moral responsibility to be the redeemer of the World. They believe that there is no hope for the lower imbecilic class, and the entire burden of fixing the World lies on their tired shoulders. As the book progresses each genus realises the agonies of their opposites and come to terms with the fact that life is not fair to anyone. It is analogous of a binary signal of random sequences of zeroes and ones.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Shilpi Jain

    Thank you Manu Joseph for writing such a complex yet gripping novel. I can't stop to marvel at the sheer brilliance of the plot, the strong narrative, and the spontaneity of it all. Story of Ayyan and Oja Mani and their 'prodigy' son- Adi. Ayyan is not your typical run-of-the-mill hero, he has shades of grey, in fact, he's purely a grey character. He works as a personal assistant at the prestigious Institute of Theory and Research to the renowned physicist and the director Acharya who is equally Thank you Manu Joseph for writing such a complex yet gripping novel. I can't stop to marvel at the sheer brilliance of the plot, the strong narrative, and the spontaneity of it all. Story of Ayyan and Oja Mani and their 'prodigy' son- Adi. Ayyan is not your typical run-of-the-mill hero, he has shades of grey, in fact, he's purely a grey character. He works as a personal assistant at the prestigious Institute of Theory and Research to the renowned physicist and the director Acharya who is equally famous for his work as for his temper. Acharya is obviously not popular with his colleagues. Ayyan's sole purpose is life is to ensure that his son gets enough publicity for being a 'prodigy' (I know I am putting it in quotes and you'll realize when you read the book). When a scandal leads to Acharya's suspension, it threatens Ayyan Mani's plan to establish his genius son. Throw in additional factors of race, caste, politics, prejudice, hidden ambitions and this heady cocktail grows on to you. A very engaging read and a wonderfully intricate but amusing plot. Absolutely Read!

  28. 5 out of 5

    Umesh Kesavan

    A brilliant debut novel by Manu Joseph . The sarcasm, the eloquence,the sharp wit all make for a heady read in this tale based on caste in contemporary India. "That men,in reality,did not have friends in other men. That the fellowship of men,despite its joyous banter,old memories of exaggerated mischief and the altruism of sharing pornography ,was actually a farcical fellowship. Becaude what a man really wanted was to be bigger than his friends" - Hahaha !

  29. 4 out of 5

    Sathish

    I really tried to complete the book but all attempts were in vain, I was willing to forego and ignore the racist phrases, the explanation of women as mere sexual objects and even the lethargic attempt of a dad son bonding but in spite of this I was never able to move forward with the book at all, I would seriously think for a looooooooong time before I decide to read any of the author's future works.....

  30. 5 out of 5

    Nirav

    This book was a perfect start to the year. A book based in Bombay which is filled with a lot of satire, dark humour and based on bureaucracy of the country. The story which deals with issues of caste and social tension yet handles them in a sharp, funny way. It has a bit of a slow start but then when I felt that it was the time to just keep it aside, it picked up with pace and how. Highly recommended to everyone who are thinking to pick it up, you won't regret.

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