Marketing man's humorous take on life

There is no dearth of Indian fiction on college life at the Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) and the Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs) and high-flying careers thereafter. Among young Indians, the genre seems to have an insatiable appeal.

In this mould comes another novel - marketing professional Paddy Rangappa's humorous Been There Bungled That. The book, Mr Rangappa's first, traces the journey of character Jagannath Srinivasan, better known as Jags, through college life at IIT and IIM before he embarks on careers in consultancy, advertising, marketing and banking.

Jags' life is comically rudderless, his educational and career choices depending on the most sought after courses/jobs available rather than an interest in them. Which, in reality, is true for millions of young Indians who join engineering and business education institutes not out of interest, but simply because these degrees are seen as a stepping stone to a "bright and successful" future.

Running parallel in the book is his love story (Jags falls in love with his professor's daughter), marriage and eventual parenthood, each stage filled with hilarious gaffes. He meets his future wife when he sneaks into his professor's house to submit a late assignment.

Mr Rangappa, who is from Tamil Nadu and is now a Singaporean, says the inspiration for the book came from the numerous columns he has written for Indian papers and tabla! on his professional and personal life. He has an MBA from IIM Ahmedabad and holds an engineering degree from the National Institute of Technology, Warangal.

He was tempted at one stage to write the book as a memoir but instead created a fictional character which lent more freedom and creativity to the story. Mr Rangappa said: "The book needed exaggerations and over the top situations to make it funnier, which fiction allowed me. In a memoir, I couldn't have taken such liberties."

However, the book is largely based on Mr Rangappa's own experiences, tracing his journey from India to Singapore, in a 25-year-long marketing career. He interviewed people in consultancy, advertising and banking, the three career fields, along with marketing, protagonist Jags hilariously hops to and from, in the course of the book.

The book has it all - from Indian time sensibilities which put Jags in embarrassing social situations in Singapore, his struggles with eating the durian, Singapore's favourite fruit, and having to give up his intrepid, free-willed driving style to acquire a more disciplined approach on Singapore roads.

These situations aren't novel, but the inherent humour in them draw more than a chuckle. Which is true for most of the book. The book's highlight is its relatability and easy, self-deprecating humour.

Jags' quirky attempts at helping his children with their homework and ingenious ways of figuring out names of acquaintances he bumps into are hilarious and sure to put a smile on your face. His way of helping his children with their homework requires a three-pronged technique called 3Ds which are Delay, Discomfort and Dig Deep. Mr Rangappa explains in the book: "When your child asks a difficult homework question, use the question as a guide to provide advice (Delay) that requires your child to take some unsavoury action (Discomfort); while your child is engaged, Google the answer (Dig Deep) and be ready."

Jags finds out forgotten names of acquaintances he meets at airports by asking them for their boarding cards, saying that it is his hobby to compare seats. These and other tips he reveals in a chapter titled The Stranger Danger.

Mr Rangappa's writing is refreshingly straightforward and conversational. The chapters are brief and each is a standalone story in itself. The book on the whole, with all its bungles and bloopers, is thoroughly enjoyable. It will definitely make you see the funny side of life.

The book was released in India on Nov 5. It is currently unavailable internationally.

Mr Rangappa, who works as a senior director of marketing at McDonald's and has been in Singapore for the last 13 years, intends to write more books following this one.


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