If you are like me and root for the underdog then you may find this book appealing. The main character of this book is Ayyan Mani, a Dalit father, spouse and clerk at a physics institute in Mumbai. Despite the ‘serious’ in the title the book is actually quite comedic. One of the ways in which Mani wanted to “strike back” at India’s ruling Brahmins was to donate sperm— hoping that Brahmins would purchase his seed and sprout little Dalit babies! Much of the book revolves around his desire to make his one and only son famous for being a genius. His little Adi has been born into a very modest home and has few prospects for ever climbing higher than his father, despite the fact that Mani is a member of MENSA and has a very high IQ.
The physics’ institute’s characters and their professional and personal lives take up another chunk of the story. We meet arrogant, brilliant men who think about extra terrestrials and fight about sending balloons into space to see if life drops down from outer space. When the first woman joins the research team, this hitherto all-male bastion changes in unpredictable ways.
All in all this is a great read albeit slow and rather dull in a few places. Joseph is generally a talented story teller. While his male characters are well developed the women in his book lack believability in some ways and in other ways they are stereotyped as not very interesting people.
The front cover, with a friendly and colourful image of Lord Shiva and his son Ganesha, caught my eye. I’m glad I picked it up and took it home. For part of the time, our 12 year old Zubin and me read the book aloud and enjoyed the fun together. Joseph takes on the heavy theme of caste discrimination and weaves a tale that is light yet provocative.