Author: Paddy Rangappa
Publisher: Random House India
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Been There Bungled That written by Paddy Rangappa is a story about Jagannath Srinivasan, who is fondly referred to as Jags. Jags is a caricature; we know many like him who set out to conquer the world, feeling superior with degrees from IIT and IIM rolled under their arms.
He decides the course of his career based on what is considered to be right (read: popular) instead of introspecting and identifying what he wishes to do, again a very common phenomenon which we all have seen. So Jags jumps from one industry to another, following the opinions of everyone but himself. The book traces Jags’ journey and tries to present everyday situations in a light and humorous tone.
Besides the central character Jags, there is hardly any other character that has been fleshed out well. His parents, wife, kids, immediate bosses, and a few friends have been mentioned a few times. But for the most part, it’s Jags who is narrating the story, talking about himself, or explaining his point of view.
The book, with 270+ pages and 70+ short chapters, has been written in a very simple manner and the language used is at an intermediate level. This makes it ideal for debutants in the reading world or those who seldom read. Each chapter is a random story, which does not necessarily precede or succeed the chapter. And this is why the stories seem to be more appropriate for a blog/diary entry, or at best, something that to be shared with friends or colleagues over drinks. However, there is something relatable for everyone as Jags effortlessly switches from one industry to another (I wonder why and how!), as a result of which he has a trunkful of things to share.
The book is funny in quite a few places; for instance, when Jags’ mother wants to have a serious discussion, he says “So I did the South Indian equivalent of laying down my fork and spoon: I stopped mashing rice with my fingers and gave her my full attention.” On the other hand, an ardent feminist might take offence at some lines Mr. Rangappa has written like this one, “Arguing with a woman is futile at the best of times; when she is PMSing, it’s foolhardy.” Just saying!
It won’t take an Einstein to figure out that Been There Bungled That is an autobiographical story a with few fictionalized anecdotes. And what’s with MBAs and Engineers becoming fiction writers?! There are just too many of them right now. Quite a trend!
After reading some really flattering opinions about the book from prolific personalities like Sam Balsara, and after Rangappa being compared to Wodehouse, I had huge expectations. But sadly my expectations were not met. The book is a confused mixture of too many irrelevant & familiar stories (strict professor, falling in love with professor’s daughter, issues faced in a strange country, inside jokes about copywriters, inside jokes about bankers, inside jokes about consultants, inside jokes about brand managers, phew…) clubbed together that leave you with nothing. The book doesn’t leave any impact and isn’t insightful. Overall, not that great!