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A Techno Tale


Shyamala A. Narayan

LABYRINTH: A NOVEL
By Arunabha Sengupta
Writers Workshop, Kolkata, 2004, pp. 442, Rs. 450.00 (Hb), Rs. 250.00 (Pb)

VOLUME XXX NUMBER 7 July 2006

Arunabha Sengupta’s novel Labyrinth is set during the years of the computer boom, when hundreds of young Indians found work on the Y2K problem. It gives a vivid picture of their life in a huge software company, interwoven with a tale of young love. In some respects, it parallels Chetan Bhagat’s bestselling novel, Five Point Someone: What not to do at IIT (published last year). Bhagat presented the life of three young men who join the Indian Institute of Technology, after tough competition. Labyrinth shows these brilliant engineering graduates caught in the labyrinth of a huge software company.   The two principal characters, Kiran Arothe and Vikram Gupta, resemble the young author. Vikram Gupta, like Arunabha Sengupta (b.1973) has a Masters degree in Statistics from the Indian Statistical Institute, Calcutta, and joins “Adieu Consultancy Solutions” straight from the campus. The author worked in T.C.S. (Tata Consultancy Services) initially. The vivid dislike of everything in Chennai, the food, the weather, the work atmosphere, and the longing to get back to Calcutta to his mother and dog, reflect the young author’s own life. (The blurb informs us that Sengupta “currently works for Cognizant Technology Solutions, and lives in Salt Lake, Kolkata, with his mother, wife, daughter and a Golden Retriever.”) Kiran Arothe is a senior software engineer, who has joined ACS because they promised to post him in Bombay after the initial orientation.   A.C.S. is shown as a soul-less company, interested only in profits. When it comes to recruiting young people from college campuses, they paint a rosy picture of their future career; once they have been inducted, they are made to sign a three-year bond. But youngsters still leave, in spite of this. So the Vice President, Digambaram, and Dr Nageshwar, head of the Human Resource Department, get the brilliant idea of making the youngsters submit their original certificates. How Vikram manages to outwit the company, and get justice for Kiran Arothe, forms the plot of the novel. Vikram Gupta is a refreshingly different protagonist; he does not suffer from any deep-seated anxiety, or worry about the clash between modernity and tradition in India, or any such highly philosophical predicament. His peculiar sense of humour, love of practical jokes and irreverence for authority enables him to take on the corporate might of the software giant. ACS has an unduly high opinion of their training ...


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