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Many Masters, Many Slaves


Simi Malhotra

MASTER OF LIFE SKILLS
By Vijay Nair
HarperCollins Publishers, India, 2006, pp. 216, Rs. 250.00

VOLUME XXXII NUMBER 7 July 2008

Master of Life Skills, a first novel by Vijay Nair, an organization consultant, could not have been better timed. The present day urban landscape is replete with stories of battered lives seeking solutions through ‘process work’, ‘personal growth programmes’ etc., run by modern day ‘gurus’, and almost similar to the exposés of such charlatans that often appear in our daily media, this novel under review goes to expose the charade behind the trade. In a bid to showcase the ‘inherent malevolence’ of human beings, the novel leads the reader into the dark alleyways of the mind of Vipul, the master manipulator, who plays around with the fears and anxieties of his many victims. He has at his disposal ready sufferers and he deploys his weaponry of intuitive insight, magnetism, sexual appetite, and tantric knowledge on them, which leaves them with permanent emotional scars.   The novel begins with Vipul’s death and as the narrative unfolds with the stories of each of Vipul’s victims, one reads of their lives being inextricably entangled and intertwined with his. Vipul, a PhD (whose thesis runs into merely 30 pages!) in clinical psychology from the US comes to work in a business school in Ahmedabad; he starts a personal growth programme that fuses elements of psychology with management. Soon surrounded by student seekers from whom he expects ‘total submission’ (p. 20), he acquires an Osho like status on campus and comes to be regarded as a saviour by one and all. Nandini, his wife, is merely the first one who gives ‘him charge of her life’ (p. 19). Others follow and with loyal assistance (read ‘enslavement’) from them, he sets up a life skills institute ‘Sangamitra’.   Teji, married to a professor (29 years old!) of chemistry and a research associate at the B-school, is ‘the first to succumb’ to Vipul’s charms. Independent and rebellious, Teji, who wanted to turn ‘men into lambs’ (p. 23), becomes his sidekick and ends up as an emotional wreck by the time Vipul has run through her. Dealing with his own ghosts, that of being an illegitimate child, Dipankar, is the second to surrender to Vipul. Dipankar’s hopes of redeeming his life through marriage are shattered when he discovers his wife Poonam’s abusive past (she had sexual relations with her father) which makes her turn violent towards Dipankar. Battered and bruised, he hopes that divorce would be his release.   Next ...


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