Yeah that title isn’t going to get “brownie points” from you, I know. Oh wait, did you say Brownie Points? Do you even “ponder” what that means? I bet you used that as maybe that one-time clipped British-accent GF frequently used that, eh? Bam! Now I got you thinking huh? Brownie points? Brown is not even an attractive colour right? You would have thought scoring “greenie” points would have made a better idiom huh. Go on, shake that head. English is a funny language. And whoa! Look at that red circle over the “Fullproof”? You’re a little confused, errrr….isn’t it f-o-o-l proof? Maybe that is why the red circle. But you aren’t sure.
Manish Gupta cashes in on these exact sentiments and has fashioned this “almanac” (if I may use that word!) that is going to let you bulldoze through all your doubts around this “phunny language” and by the time you are through with this wonderful self-styled autobiography that charts the life of a boy from the hinterlands of Punjab who probably got the jitter-bugs thinking of his English classes but finally grows into a board-room rabble-rouser in the power-corridors of banking corporates (See what I did there? I combined “super-adjectives” and now you have the highest regard for this character) – you will be “talking English, walking English and even laughing English – ‘coz ainhhhh…English is a very phunny language alright but you are the master. And Manish definitely gets the "formula" right to master the same.
So harking back to the book – And we start with the front: Look at the gorgeous cover! It captures the whole aspirations & dollar dreams of the average Indian middle-class youth in its full glory. Perhaps in his final year of graduation, dreaming of the coveted “phoren” degree and burning the midnight oil, scampering through his notes and mugging his heart out. Trying to learn that “phunny” language called English.
It’s a classic representation of what we all have gone through at some point of time in our lives. I personally know, by all the 333 million gods of the Hindu pantheon, how hard that GRE/GMAT verbal section was/still is. I’ve given both the GRE & GMAT versions. Shudder!! with a lot of exclamations don’t even cover it. So Manish Gupta, the author of this funnily titled book, comes as an angel in disguise for all of us. I am what people would call a “language nut” – I love words in all their hues and colors and I believe in using Fantabulously Stupendous where a simple good would have sufficed but good doesn’t quite convey the depth and the feelings behind something being that good.
But yes – a journey through life’s mis-adventures as Mr. Gupta calls it, has been painstakingly drawn up as the perfect foil to learning intricacies of this language called English. Simple stories really – starting from his school days and the engineering aspirations for higher studies followed by the toil for competitive exams, the first job and then the training or probation and then finding his own groove in a cut-throat industry. But the best bits aren’t the story. The fun parts which really shine are the anecdotes and the footnotes.
There be the diamonds in the rough. But just like some diamonds needs some processing, not all shine alike.
The anecdotal stories range from comical and wildly entertaining to stolid and flat at times. But the earnestness and the efforts are commendable. I for one, wasn’t too enamored by the extremely large range of vocab recorded here, taking nothing away from the diligence and the fantastic manner in which the book peels away the layers around not just the “etymology” but spinning a story that helps jog the memory. (Remember I talked about Brownie Points? It comes from the British Railways – of a point system of rewarding good work or non-sloppiness, devised by a person called Robert Brown. There, go brag about this to that ex-GF with the British Accent who first used this, huh) But without doubts, this here is a cornucopia of knowledge for you parched desert rats scrounging around with your Word Power Made Easy or the PowerPrep CD exams.
But be warned that if you’re going into this book expecting an entertaining fictional story, then you are bound to be disappointed. As a story, the author’s autobiographical take kind of takes a plunge downhill in the second half where he has shoe-horned just too many dry stuff: Mini-stories of board rooms, brands & advertising and dry as bone dust trivia.
Overall, this book is a treasure. But as with all treasures, it needs the right temperament and handling. But with Manish doing a marvellous job of setting expectations with his emails, you’re advised to go slow. One Bite at a time. A chapter or two perhaps a day. It’s like chocolate fondue that you should probably store in the fridge and take a spoonful at nights. But trust me, like every good thing, unless you share the goods, it is going to useless in the long run. So whoever you may be, “Language Nut” or a GRE/GMAT aspirant wanting to crack Verbal – And this is from personal practice: If you really want this book to work for you – the best way would be to start discussing the new words that you come across with some close groups. It works wonders in slipping that into your memory. So next time, you come across that Brit ex-GF of yours, hit her with this new found treasure-trove. Wow her with the most beautiful language that has united people the world over.
Go ahead take a bite. It won’t bite back. You’ll love it.