|Book Title||:||Q & A|
Simon & Schuster (UK & Commonwealth),
St. Martin’s Press -US
Published in: (January 2013)
|Total Pages||:||449 (Paperback)|
This third outing by Mr. Swarup is a story of one character like Q & A, but it differs from his previous works in the format of the story. It is a linear story of a year of Sapna’s life.
And the theme here is:
In life, you never get what you deserve, you get what you negotiate.
The protagonist this time is a young girl in Delhi, who is the breadwinner for her family in wake of the tragic deaths of her father and youngest sister. She is intelligent, driven, brave and honest. But, she is also a prisoner of her middle-class values and social dogmas.
As Mr Swarup said in an interview, the seed of this story was sown in his mind with one single image, an elderly man looking for someone in the temple of Maa Durga. Slowly that elderly man became Vinay Mohan Acharya, a veteran industrialist who is looking for a successor to become the next CEO of his empire. When we meet him in the book, he has found his next apprentice: Sapna Sinha. The bizarre offer promises that Sapna will get one lakh rupees if she agrees to take seven tests out of the textbook of life.
If she passes all these tests successfully, she will have the opportunity of becoming a business queen.
Of course, like any intelligent person living in India, Sapna find the offer is just too strange to be believed. Sapna does the sensible thing and says no. But then a middle class Indian girl also has responsibilities. When faced with the probability of becoming homeless, Sapna accepts the offer and the tests start. And so do the stories.
In the first test, Sapna stands up to a Khap panchayat to prevent marriage of a young girl Babli to an old man and instead getting her married to the man she loves. In another test, she returns a multi-million rupees diamond engagement ring to a bad-tempered and arrogant Bollywood actress. In another story, even though she gets attacked herself, she successfully uses the “Right of Information” act to prevent child labour. She accompanies her young, beautiful and ambitious sister Neha to a reality TV show and unravels a scandal involving a popular musician.
On plus side Sapna has help of a savvy journalist called Barkha Das (very like the real life Barkha Dutt!?), an American activist Lauren and her sometimes crush and sometimes friend Karan. Each test reveals that Sapna possesses leadership, integrity, courage, foresight, resourcefulness and decisiveness, respectively.
But, as the book progresses the stakes become higher and much more personal. So much so, that in the end, she loses a friend forever, her sister becomes victim of an acid attack and she herself ends up in jail under the charge of murdering her mentor Vinay Mohan Acharya. But, she escapes from jail and seeks refuge in her childhood home. This visit, however, in addition to providing her some respite, also provides the key to the whole mystery.
The end however, is intriguing as Sapna still has something more to learn – Wisdom….And she also has a choice to make, the most difficult one about which path to take in life – one that includes the riches of the material world or follow her dreams….
A chapter is available for free reading at here (on author’s official website).
On the admiration front, The Accidental Apprentice made it to the “Most Popular” list of 2013 on Amazon.in, was converted in a BBC audio drama and is now going to be made into a film that will be directed by Sriram Raghavan (“Ek Haseena Thi” and “Johny Gaddar” fame).
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