April 28, 2016

Book Review: A Guy Growing Old in a Country Growing Young

By Sheela Jaywant




Reading this book was like a breath of fresh air. No plot, no thrill, no path-breaking psychological insights into complicated characters. Yet, I enjoyed the read because on every page I read something that a) reminded me of my childhood, b) made me smile because I recognized a similar funny incident/situation in my own life and c) for those who have now crossed fifty years of age, brought home the fact that the India’s young no longer want/need you.

I believe this is a collection of thinly disguised biographical blogs of a middle-aged copywriter in an advertising agency. He’s written it under another name: Dan Mullagathanny. Same initials as the author.

The first chapter got me interested. It was about how garbage, many decades ago, was less. Because people consumed less and also because so much of it was recycled.

“Nehru, the architect of the Public Sector Undertaking in India, didn’t encourage private manufacture that would have generated more jobs, better salaries and consumption that would have produced garbage because he didn’t think private enterprise was suitable for India.

Until the ‘90s, India had beautiful environs for the oddest of reasons.”
Middle-class miserliness some might call those oddest of reasons, but plastic wasn’t a menace.

Then Gen-X took over, cable television invaded our homes, the computers changed office life, the mobile phone improved connectivity and the internet changed every single thing.As did tetrapacked juices.

Macedo tackles the problems facing a middle-aged, middle-income man in an India that’s rapidly become young-focused. It’s about writing your biography to convince young managers that your experience is good though you don’t know what ASAP might stand for.

Macedo has covered important social events that got a lot of media coverage, but made nary a dent in the lives of ordinary citizens. The chapter headings give you hints of the content: ‘Cop Slaps Girl, Girl Slaps Her Back’, ‘Youth Prefer Jargon to Language’, ‘Too Many Alternatives’, ‘Don’t Argue, Take Your Money and Run’ and ‘Bottom-up Country’.

From slackness towards grammar and language in general to matters of earning a living to minor political commentary, Macedo has light-heartedly packed in what every Indian knows but can’t express: life’s hard but fun as long as there’s a roof over your head and food on the table.

A book I would gladly gift someone a) waiting for a bus, b) travelling by train, c) wanting to spend an afternoon smiling to him/herself.

Sheela Jaywant is a Goa-based humour-columnist, fiction-writer, translator, editor-at-large.

Here is a book extract on the publisher's site.