Book Review of Whisper of the Worms
“Baby’s blood is O Negative,” she said on coming back. “It’s a rare group. Who is negative? You or your wife?”
“Wife. I’m thoroughly negative, except for the blood,” he told.
“Arrange a blood donor and keep him ready for matching immediately,” she ordered and vanished.
He ran to familiar faces. They all were positive, except for the blood.
Book Title: Whisper of the Worms
Publication: Cactus Publishers
“Asinisation? I’m hearing it for the first time.”
“It’s a word coined by a friend of mine to illustrate how an officer could be made to work like an ass.”
My first glance at the book cover got me confused. There was this picture of a donkey (ass) and the title mentioned ‘worms.’ How were the two related? I wondered.
The book, if it has to be described in one line would be, ‘Philosophical, Sadistically Practical and Insightful.’
Thobias Mathias, the main protagonist of the book is dying and wants to get back to the land of his roots before his time comes. So, he rushes from USA where he has been living for ages with his family and goes to Kerala where his aged mother lives – All that he wants is some peace and respite from this dreary life.
Unfortunately, destiny has a lot in store for him and quite contrary to what he had planned (even visiting the grave of his father and paying in advance for his burial in the same place) his past catches up on him. No No! Not quite the stereotype skeletons tumbling from the cupboard this. Instead, his past stint in a banking firm and his ordeals there come to haunt him in a strange way. Just when he wants to let lose the strings of life, he finds a legal case against him and the strings, instead of setting him free continue to tighten further. Or so he thinks.
What I like best about this book is the blending and wonderful portrayal of the philosophy of life all within a bank culture.
“If you are a carrot chaser,” he continued, “you will be very close to the APM. You can’t imagine a junior sitting in the posh cabin and ordering you. You will fear the errors and rumours that can affect you. You will fear the customers, auditors, VIPs, the dons of the area and even the peon of the head office. You will even fear a situation where there is nothing to fear. This fear should come to you even after you work perfectly.”
“In the process, you will be running faster and the results will be better. There will be a fire in your abdomen. The Big Boss will ensure that no junior overtakes you, so that the carrot of promotion is available round the season. Imagine what happiness when the first carrot lands in your lap in the form of a promotion!”
“You want to be treated as a horse. It’s a good animal; energetic and working well. But, the cost of maintenance is high and rebels easily. It is not needed in routine work….Donkeys will be happy with what they get. …In between, give the carrot to another donkey which is about to fall, or at random, but never to a donkey that has got stamina to continue moving.”
I had never quite understood the pain and frustration of my friends who worked in banks, government jobs and the like when they complained about not getting their due promotions or a junior being allowed to go up the ladder. It was only upon reading this book could I really sympathize from the heart all the agony of the stick, carrot and donkey system.
Like here, where the author mentions in his book, “The stick-phase starts after ensuring that your roots are sufficiently cut through frequent transfers. You won’t be having anybody to share your sorrows or to defend you. You will enter a new world where you are the villain responsible for all ills, surrounded by a group of saints without any productive work, but trying to save the institution. This system is evolved over a period; much researched and improved by the best brains, that it goes undetected during your entire service period.”
The author needs to be really appreciated for seeing through the system of working in organizations and he does it with a lot of satirical wit that can cut through the skin so to say. The Kerala backdrop is nicely described and you get to sip the rustic background of God’s Own Country.
So, what happens to Thobias?
Does he finally die as predicted?
Does he get the peace that he initially aspired for?
Does his former working place (bank) get the better of him and drown him in the mire of politics and selfish survival?
Read on to know more. The gist of the novel lies in its portrayal of a present connecting with its past. It could be anybody’s story…..
“Institutions grow not because of a few brilliant officers, but because of the loyalty and hard work of the less-than-averages.”
The book was received as part of Reviewers Programme on The Tales Pensieve.