Mistress and ON@CC

Last week I read two novels: Mistress by Anita Nair and One Night @ the Call Center (ON@CC) by Chetan Bhagat.

Mistress is a beautiful novel by veteran novelist Anita Nair, with Kerala and Kathakali as the backdrop. It is the story of a great Kathakali artist (Koman) as told to Christopher Stewart (Chris) a travel writer from abroad. It is also the story of Radha (Koman’s niece) and her husband Shyam. It is also the story of the attraction, infatuation and passion between Radha and Shyam. It is also about the marriage of Radha and Shyam and what went wrong and how it is heading for a disaster. It is the story of Sethu (Koman’s dad) and his life.

It is a story of art and adultery, passion and profession, oppression and frustration, self-abnegation and self-indulgence, truths and lies, all woven very dexterously and seamlessly using various Kathakali metaphors and myths. The author’s knowledge about Kathakali and the time spent on research shines through each page of the book. The book is structured within the framework of navarasas—sringaaram (love), haasyam (humor), karunam (sorrow), raudram (fury), veeram (courage), bhayaanakam (fear), beebhalsam (disgust), adbutham (wonder) and shaantham (peace). The organization of book into nine chapters (the navarasas) and making the characters telling their side of the story is very nice. It makes the book more interesting and intimate.

This novel is about people making choices in their lives and they have to pay for what they have chosen. The author does not judge anyone or the choices they make. I liked this book better than her other two novels—The Better Man and Ladies Coupe.

ON@CC is the second novel by the ‘Five Point Someone’ fame Chetan Bhagat. It is about the life and work of six people working in a call center in Gurgaon. The story starts at 8.32PM and ends in the early morning next day (less than 12 hours!). The book captures the various issues, fears, frustrations, ambitions and objectives of the call center employees. It also reveals the indignation and condescending treatment that they have to face every night from their customers from the other side of the globe. It also portrays the dirty office politics and games people play to advance their careers. It shows how we sacrifice our self-respect and self-esteem to make money. It reveals why we cannot have satisfaction and be at peace with ourselves if we go after money instead of what we would love to do (our passion).

This a riveting story of how bad things can get for six people and how they get out of the mess (with a little help from God!). I liked the first book (Five Point Someone) better than this book.

Both books make excellent reading. ON@CC can be read under 2 hours. Mistress is more serious reading. But both are gratifying. I recommend both books. Enjoy…


  1. anu said,

    November 16, 2005 at 1:45 pm

    i was planning to read ‘mistress’.. now i HAVE to..

  2. Ganesh said,

    December 9, 2005 at 5:52 pm

    i too have read the novel mistress . it was unputdownable. I was a long time since i read anything like that. Perhaps after God of small things and Memoirs of a geisha. I dont think this novel is in the same category as the afore mentioned still it was immensely enjoyable. The way she describes the nine rasas was fascinating.But for all the rasas except perhaps shantham she writes that the characters flares his nostrils to depict the rasa. I dont think so. The character I best liked is Syam and least liked is Radha.