Tuesday, February 05, 2013


Title: Jobless Clueless Reckless
Author: Revathi Suresh
Publisher: Duckbill
Pages: 175

Whoever said First impressions are the best impressions was way off the mark.

When you first start reading Jobless Clueless Reckless, the debut novel of Revathi Suresh, you feel distracted by the vagueness and begin to wonder just how jobless and reckless the author was to come up with a character as clueless as Kavya.

And then things get better.

The trick lies in not spending time looking for a plot that isn’t there, but in enjoying the tumultuous ride that is an adolescent girl’s life. Here you will find boy issues, best friend issues, distant mother, absent father and pesky brother issues -- everything that seems larger than life, when you’re a teenager whose life seems all set to crash before it can even take off.

Even as she tries to make sense of her clueless-seeming life, young Kavya shoulders the burden of this difficult journey upon her shoulders. Not an easy task, what with the rumours that she has invented and bumped off a fictional best friend, Manisha, and that she can haul out your intestines with just one look. What’s more, Kavya’s favourite dress code is always all-black, giving rise to reports that she may be a vampire. And of course, she has never been to school.

Her life is complicated by an 11-year-old brother Dhrittiman, who seems to be from another planet altogether but who she must babysit, because her mother has more energy and inclination for the family dog Mowgli than for her children, and her father has flown away with his prized collection of board games to Holland.

Through it all, Kavya wonders if her life is doomed for failure as she struggles to re-create the kind of best-friendship she once had with Manisha, her one-time occasional best friend from America who disappeared, with her friends in Grand Canyon, the pretentiously named housing complex in Bangalore where she lives. The casually doodled circles around the equally casually scrawled page numbers are an indication of the couldn’t-care-less attitude with which the adolescent Kavya imbues her life.

Much of Kavya’s life, like her prospect of appearing for the tenth standard board exams, the very bedrock of a young person’s future in India, is in limbo. No one understands her, not even Lara, who has been conferred the title of Best Friend.

Kavya’s biggest problem is that she seems like a freak to those around her. We’ve all experienced moments like that when try as we might we could not fit in. We yearned for the approval of our peers, when it seemed the only thing worth having.

Ironically while teenagers are often accused of being irresponsible, hormonally driven, selfish individuals, Kavya shows herself to be mature enough to look after her younger brother, a task her mother is shirking out of laziness and perhaps out of spite. Perhaps as a way of hitting out against the husband who walked out of their lives.

The writing, in the present tense, invites you into Kavya’s disordered world in which youngsters have to shoulder the responsibilities that adults have shirked. The style of writing, though chatty and conversational, does not fail to give us a glimpse of the angst suffered by a teenage girl as she navigates the landmines that adolescence throws in her way. 

Pay close attention to the poignancy of feeling experienced by a child rushing to her father’s room to make sure his cherished boards games are still there, the ones he’d never leave without, though he might leave without them.

The teenage vocabulary has been reproduced to telling effect, right down to the indiscriminate and arbitrary use of Like and other colloquialisms and slang words, so favoured by urban English-speaking, Facebook-checking and tech-savvy youngsters. More power to Revathi for having so successfully recreated the idiom of teenage angst and turmoil in urban India.

The names that Kavya calls people that she is annoyed with are marvelously creative. Sample this: cataplastic epigenesist, hypertonic diploid. The writing is funny in the subtle, clever one-liners, not the ROFL kind that readers these days expect. The humour of Kavya’s lingo catches us totally unawares. It is the kind that walks around with a straight face, then sneaks up on you and thumps you hard on the back, while shouting, “Gotcha.” There were more than a few occasions when I found myself shaking helplessly with laughter, unable to stop the laughing fit once it had started.

Such a strong character can come into being and thrive only when a good writer throws away the plot lines and dialogues that she started out with and allows herself to be led. Revathi has done just that and so we have a girl who hopes her eyes leave bite marks.

They certainly do.


  1. I also read the book and loved it for its simple and frank writing !!

  2. Your review...my thoughts! ! Perfect description of a book I too enjoyed thoroughly. More power to you too.



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