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The Accidental Apprentice –V. Swarup

December 31, 2015

TAAWhat would you do if a complete stranger came up to you after church and offered you a job with a huge salary? This is what happens in this novel – except it it is in a Hindu temple after puja.

I enjoyed the author’s Slumdog Millionaire so felt sure I’d enjoy this book too. This is his third novel. The premise of the plot is inspired by the reality television show The Apprentice.

Sapna Sinah is a middle-class salesgirl, struggling to make ends meet, working in an electronics boutique in downtown Delhi. When leaving a temple one day, Sapna is accosted by an expensively dressed, elderly man who introduces himself as Vinay Mohan Acharya, owner of Acharya Business Consortium. Sapna is surprised; she knows that the ABC Group is one of India’s largest conglomerates and that Acharya is a multi-millionaire – but she is even more surprised when he makes her an offer that he thinks she cannot refuse. Acharya is looking for a Chief Executive Officer to take over the running of ABC and, even though Sapna has absolutely no experience in this field, he has decided that she might well be the person he is looking for – but, he tells her, there is a catch; she has to pass seven tests from what he refers to as: ‘the textbook of life’.

Beneath the storyline, Swarup confronts the reader with questions about how far it is right to trade one’s own ethics for the prospect of prizes. Sapna and her family are no saints and they have pretty materialistic aspirations. At times, they are selfish and vindictive. They can be quite cynical in achieving their ends. Yet their very capitalist struggle is one which does engage the reader. There are questions, too, about whether India is selling its soul in exchange for development. And if so, whether it is a price worth paying.

India is well–described: its immense wealth side by side with its poverty, the stifling bureaucracy and bribes, forced marriages etc.

There’s a passing reference to someone being gay.

There are some weak similes: ‘my mind is spinning faster than a CD.’ Also “He’s my soulmate, my strength, my rock”; “She was the apple of my eye, the life of the party, the heart of our family”; “He’s my oxygen, I’ll die without him” and “There’s something very deflating about being confronted with a loaded gun.” And it doesn’t get much better when he tries imagery: “Hospitals are the boats that move damaged souls across the river of human sickness.”

I enjoyed it despite/because of(?) its being so far-fetched.

TAA 2 Quotations:

“It’s a basic rule of human nature that the promise of unexpected wealth short-circuits both intelligence and common sense.”

“God made the human body like a machine with built-in obsolescence.

`You have great legs.’ His eyes descend my body ‘What time do they open?’

It is a basic rule of human nature that the promise of unexpected wealth short-circuits both intelligence and common sense.

‘Hope is a recreational drug, giving you an artificial high based on a dosage of unreal­istic expectations….

Only those who risk going too far can possibly find out how far they can go.

Diamonds are not my best friend. You are.

it’s better to be famous than rich

I’d rather die tomorrow as a famous person than live a hundred years in obscurity

Fame is no longer seen as a by-product of talent, but as an end in itself. Everyone wants to become an instant celebrity. And being on TV is the quickest way to achieve this. That is why we have con­testants willing to do just about anything to get on a reality show. They will eat cockroaches, abuse their par­ents, have sex, get married, announce divorce and even give birth on camera. Anything that can possibly be done in real life is now being packaged as a reality show. And the envelope is constantly being pushed. We now have a show based on past-life regression, as if this life weren’t exciting enough.

Poor Amma sold out her share, only for you to squander it all on fast women and slow horses.

“For the first time in my life I am witnessing the cut and thrust of the business world. How deals are made and rejected.”

“Never!” Acharya almost springs out of his chair. “I know how you do business, AK. You are a godless thug who buys companies only to suck them dry. I will never allow the ABC Group to be run by scum like you.”

`I cannot claim to be God: he says. ‘But, like God, I created your world, and then left you to fend for yourself. I engineered the process, not the outcomes. You created them out of your own free will’

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