55: A Novel
By Chetan Chhatwal
Paperback, 256 pages
Publisher: Ebury Press
Arjun Singh is a typical South Delhi brat whose biggest worry is securing a much-coveted seat in one of the city’s top colleges. But his ambitious plans come to a screeching halt when he scores a paltry ‘55’ in English in the board exams. Unable to meet the cut-off, Arjun is forced to take admission in a neighbouring second-grade college. Between grappling with his identity as a Sikh and facing repeated misfortunes in love, Arjun’s only solace is his three best friends from school who have also ended up in the same dump. What will happen to his future now? Witty, naughty, and plain irreverent, 55 is a delightful, mad caper about growing up and surviving three tumultuous years in the hallowed corridors of Delhi University.
Arjun Singh is like any other ten plus two pass out in Delhi who wants an admission in the esteemed Delhi Universities top most colleges for his higher studies. Getting a messed up result in his twelfth grade board exams on his strongest subject- English, and unable to get through the process of re-evaluation, Arjun is unable to make it to the hot-shot colleges because of not meeting the cut-offs. But how bad can the worst experiences of your life be if you have your best mates with you on each step? This is a tale of broken dreams, picking up the pieces and an everlasting friendship.
His worst nightmares come true when he is compelled by the ‘55’ on his report card to join a shady second- rate college of the University.
The cover of the book gets it nice points because it just sums up everything Arjun is. Sleepy-head, lazy, messy, classy and cool. The merging colors, the turban, the yawn, the goggles and the messy graffiti of ‘55’ makes a perfect blend.
The thing that I best liked about the author was his wit. No matter how the story pulls off, the writing style of Chetan Chhatwal is absolutely awesome. He has tried to make a consistent use of humor throughout the book which totally worth an applause.
55 was the book I wanted to read just after I read its blurb. It seemed to be a gripping story showing the plight of the students who suffer because of the Boards of Education and the typical government system which runs them. I have known many people who have lost huge opportunities because of the errors or biases of the people sitting in those chairs at the Boards. I wanted to read something of them too. I wanted to feel connected. I was sure I would.
The book did show the plight of the students, however, I couldn’t feel connected. Not even a bit. I wish there was more mettle and substance to the book; it would have really been the book that its blurb claimed it to be. The main motive of my reading the book failed. I couldn’t relate to the book. Period.
55 more often than not seemed like a manual to becoming a Sikh guy, going to college. It explains the life of a Surd so much that it could very well be called a guide to becoming one. It irked me like anything. This was not what I wanted to read.
In the initial pages itself, it proves how gross a book can be. It talked of shit and farts way too much right in the first chapters, quite literally, and made me want to gag. Maybe I should have guessed it by the WC’s shown at the end of each scene.
All that the book was, can be summed up like: It is four boys, one girl. Everyone wants to get laid. And Arjun is the protagonist in love with the girl, which is a one sided affair. There is no solid enough story to the book.
I cannot find a reason enough why anyone should read 55 at all.