Note: This review was published earlier when the author had sent me a personal copy for reading. Now the book has been published under Rupa in November and has come out in the market and is available in all major stores.
Zero Percentile is a book that is compelling and easy read. I finished the book in a sitting in a matter of few hours.
It is story of an Indian middle-class boy Pankaj (yeah, Pankaj) who thinks education as a means of improving the financial, and subsequently social status of his family. He has his plans clearly laid out: to be at IIT.
If you think this book is Chetan Bhagat’s What Not to Do at IIT, then you couldn’t be more wrong.
A twist in the tale finds Pankaj in Volgograd, Russia. Before leaving India, his father reminds him of an astrologer’s predictions (you know how seriously we Indians take them) who had predicted at his birth that he will travel abroad and will fall in love with a foreign woman.
Prediction does come true, but Pankaj is clueless about the outcome since the astrologer had failed to comment on it.
The book is set into three parts: India, Russia and finally the love story. My favourite is the second part that is set in Russia. The survival story of Pankaj tinged with bits of Russian (Russia that was U. S. S. R.) history and culture completely hooks a reader’s curiosity.
The book is interesting despite its slow start with details surrounding around of Pankaj’s birth. But if you reflect on these incidents in humour as author has intended, it is easy to get to the core of the novel. Language is easy, conversational but a hard-core critic may advise catching hold of a professional editor. However, the book manages to come across as realistic because author Neeraj, as jacket says, has spent several years in Russia.
Zero Percentile is a story of friendship, love and betrayals. It’s a story that has a slice from our life at school and college. Story of a boy growing into a man. It’s a story of a boy wrestling with his destiny. These we may have heard of before. But what makes this book unique is that it’s spiced with interesting ingredients and reflections: Indians identifying with Pakistanis abroad, handling lazy hostellers and moochers, skilful Indian way of putting corruption to use, protection gangs, entrepreneurship, money, sex and white women. Zero Percentile is about a time when people had not even heard of AIDS as it was an emergent disease. Yet subtly author manages to leave a message that would make Red Ribbon brigade proud.
My recommendation is go read this book, for it’s truly a honest, non-preachy story of a ordinary boy with not-so-ordinary memoirs. The snugly-printed paperback version of book is reasonably priced at 95/- . This book is published by Rupa Publications, and it’s currently available for 76/- at Flipkart. Book is at the moment amongst the top 7 recently selling books.