Keep Off the Grass by Karan Bajaj

Books give you a funny kind of solace, that you are not alone, and someone, somewhere thinks exactly like you, and articulates it better.
A direct quote from the book, these are words that resonate my fondness for reading and one of many reasons why this book touches a personal chord.

Keep off the Grass is the debut novel of Karan Bajaj, who works as a management consultant with the Boston Consulting Group in Washington D.C. The book is about Samrat Ratan, a Yale graduate, who quits his investment banking job on Wall Street and enrolls in business school in India to return to his “roots”. His quest for self-discovery takes him on a rickety, potholed ride through Bangalore, Dharamshala and Benaras.

Once the first semester begins, Samrat realizes the mess that he has got himself into and begins to question his decision to come to India, and whether or not his search will yield him any fruit. The book is a witty reflection of the competition that has engulfed every sphere of life and its impact on the psyche of the ‘liberalized’ youth. The reader will be able to identify with the confusion in Samrat’s life; he is on a search, but he doesn’t know what he is looking for. He finds comfort in the arms of alcohol and marijuana; means that help him probe the deeper meaning of life, the motive of existence.

“Keep off the Grass” reminded me of “Five Point Someone”, by Chetan Bhagat, because here too, there are three friends (Samrat, one army officer turned management student and a pot smoking academic genius) studying together at a fiercely competitive institution (IIM-Bangalore, as against Bhagat’s story in IIT Delhi). All three share a contempt for the inhuman nature of the rat-race, and often feel alienated in it.

Samrat is pivotal to the story, but apart from him, most characters have sketchy descriptions. There’s not much written about the personal lives of his two closest friends. Also, one wishes to have been able to read more about the colorful Raja Bhaiya, the epitome of the rural businessman.

The book talks of that evasive feeling of contentment that all of us chase in passive, yet often delusional ways. The intention of the book is to make you laugh and not to educate. It is a pretty humorous reflection of the trials and tribulations of the modern-day youth, but at the same time, it pushes boundaries and forces one to introspect.

Raghav Kohli

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