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One Night at the Call Center: A Novel Paperback – May 1, 2007

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

This bestselling Indian import feels more like a half-baked business-inspirational tract than a novel, as if a washed-up motivational speaker wrote a spec script for The Office and set it in an Indian call center. The prologue sets up the novel as a story told to the author by a fellow passenger on an overnight train to Delhi. Perennially put-upon narrator Shyam Mehra is denied a promotion and learns his ex-girlfriend and current officemate Priyanka has agreed to an arranged marriage with a man in Seattle. Another friend and colleague, Vroom, hates the job and their boss, but likes the money. Co-worker Rhadhika's marriage crumbles after she learns of her husband's affair. And Esha feels guilty about what she's done in pursuit of her dream of being a model. Meanwhile, they learn that the company they work for has decided to lay off workers and that their boss is taking credit for work they've done. And then, the hook: God calls, offering the crew a four-point plan for success. Lackluster writing and a preachy tone cripple what could have been an interesting premise. (May)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Business has been lagging lately at Connections, the Delhi call center for a large U.S. computer and appliance company. Twenty-six-year-old agent Shyam, known to his American callers as "Sam," is less concerned about his career than his breakup with coworker Priyanka. (She recently consented to an arranged marriage with a wealthy Indian expat.) Sam's other twentysomething colleagues have troubles of their own: aspiring model Esha takes desperate measures to secure gigs; Radhika suffers humiliation at the hands of an unfaithful spouse; and Varun, aka Vroom, drives at dangerous speeds to cope with personal and professional distress. The bane of the staff's existence is their jargon-spewing boss, Bakshi, who blithely assumes credit for his employees' work. One particularly tense evening (which happens to be Thanksgiving Day in the U.S.), the Connections staff take a break from the office--and receive a life-altering call. Bhagat, an investment banker based in Hong Kong, renders engaging characters and a provocative premise. Allison Block
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Ballantine Books (May 1, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0345498321
  • ISBN-13: 978-0345498328
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.6 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 2.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (51 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #465,239 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
This quick, engaging story about the problems in the lives of six call center workers in India, portrays the plight of young Indians who in their desire to move up the socioeconomic ladder, ironically find themselves exploited by a distant and uncaring American corporation and restricted by outdated cultural traditions.

I enjoyed the story and the writing style, although I thought the "phone call from God" plot twist toward the end was rendered with all the subtlety of a self-help book (I'm surprised God didn't number the "valuable life lessons" for our convenience).

Forgiving that, my main gripe with this book is that neither the characters nor the author seemed to quite grasp the aforementioned "valuable life lessons".

The reason I say this is that in the story, Americans are portrayed individually (as callers into the call center) as fearful, lazy, stupid, warmongers who unfairly enjoy a better lifestyle than Indians - and collectively (in the form of corporations) as the personification of evil, unfairness and oppression. And so, the characters' economic problems are blamed on the selfish, stupid Americans who oppress them. Fair enough - every story needs a bad guy.

But yet, even after God shows up on the scene and dispenses the aforementioned "valuable life lessons" (take responsibility for your own lives, stop blaming others, stop making excuses) Americans (and the boss, as a stand-in for the Americans) are still the scapegoat, and the characters use their newfound self-confidence and perspective on life to exact REVENGE!!!
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Annapurna Saripella on April 16, 2008
Format: Paperback
I happened to buy Chetan Bhagat's One night @ the call center book at a railway station. I should say, that the book had mediocre content and very lame statements about Americans. Comments about the Americans being fat, loud, thick and divorce all the time, and that too said in front of God...and God has no problem with onehuman being demeaning other human beings, was uncalled for.

I am an Indian who has lived in the US for 13 years and recently came back to India. I have seen people abusing their own people here...especially the maids and other low paid workers. I don't think Mr.Bhagat has any clue as to what he was talking about racial abuse. Indians are the world's biggest discriminators and we should clean up our own backyard before mud slinging somebody else's.

Some parts of the book delivered some good humorous comments. To me, the form of narrative was similar to his first book Five Point Someone. I think Mr.Bhagat should stick to what he has experienced first hand and make stories of that.

Good luck and hope for a better performance in your next book.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By James N Simpson on July 8, 2007
Format: Paperback
Chetan Bhagat has written a fun adventure revolving around a group of staff who work in an Indian call centre answering stupid enquiries from Americans on Thanksgiving who can't perform simple tasks with their American (although Bhagat could have used Australia, UK, Europe, all our companies use Indian call centres now) company whitegoods. A unique idea, we get to see the world through the Indian youth' eyes who experience Americans (some racists) who speak down to them even though clearly the callers are less intelligent then they are. Some of these calls are hilarious, Bhagat should have included more.

The author tackles some bigger issues such as how the West treats poor countries like India and how their youth has sold out their country to take on the material items of the west. This book argues the point of how well educated hard working people in one country are worse off than the lazy stupid people in another simply because of where they were born. Chetan Bhagat does write this sort of stuff well without preaching to the reader, as he points out through the a well flowing storyline that these characters are all in the predicaments they are in because of themselves as well not just where they were born.

A few unrealistic occurrences in the plot and I doubt Vroom's solution for the call centre will work. The only major downside is obviously Chetan is a religious man and a passionate one at that. The ending and a middle chapter of the book have unrealistic situations and author uses this book as an opportunity to preach to the reader about his beliefs.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By D. Cuming on December 23, 2007
Format: Paperback
I cannot agree more with Sean Burke (previous reviewer). Although I enjoyed some parts of the book I felt the racist comments against Americans were unacceptable. Also, at one point the main character refers to sending "another email to the whites". Could American characters get away with referring to Indians as "blacks"? I don't think so.

I recently spent 5 months in India in Bangalore and, admittedly, anti-white sentiment is widespread. I found people were warned off socializing with me as "white girls" had a reputation as promiscuous and immoral. So, in a way, the book is an accurate account of the people it is trying to portray. The question is whether or not they should be proud of that.

I'm not American and I'm not a big fan of a lot of US foreign policy but a book containing so many sweeping anti-American statements laid out as fact made me incredibly uncomfortable. It is disappointing that so few people seem to feel the same way.
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