Zero Percentile: Missed IIT, Kissed Russia by Neeraj Chhibba

When Neeraj Chhibba, the author of this book, contacted me to ask if I can review his book, I was not sure about it. It didn’t look like a book which I would pick up on my own. Still, since I didn’t have any compelling reason to decline his request, I agreed to review his book. The very first thing I noticed about the book is its striking similarity to Chetan Bhagat’s Five Point Someone. For the records, I haven’t read Bhagat’s book and don’t plan to do so. Without reading it, I know I am not going to like it. This was not a great way to start Chhibba’s book, but I tried to be as unbiased and unprejudiced as possible.

Zero Percentile is about Pankaj, a young lad who is like any other typical boy. The book starts with his birth and gives us a detailed view of how his life turns out. The story of his birth is amusing. The author tries to turn the story into a humor cum sarcastic one, but it just didn’t work. Pankaj is the apple of the eye back home and gets a special treatment by being sent to a public school whereas his sisters have to be satisfied with going to government school. He is bright, intelligent and does well in school. He tells us about his best friends – Priya and Motu, who are with him through thick and thin. His fights in school, crush on teachers and friends, studies, election as a Head Boy and so on. His aim in life is to get into IIT and he works hard towards it. An accident quashes his hopes and he has to console himself with something else. His Dad decides to send him to Russia to study engineering. This is the reason for the title ‘Missed IIT, Kissed Russia’. The book goes on to tell us his experience in Russia, his financial struggle and his love life.

The writing is simple and straight. The book actually reads like a diary of a young man. Since the book is in first person POV, this is quite acceptable, but Chhibba could have added some more style to his writing. There are quite a few errors, as pointed by many other readers. Not only print errors, there are a few places where Pankaj contradicts himself. When he is traveling to Russia, he is clearly a non-vegetarian, but he mentions about converting from vegetarian to non-vegetarian after landing in Russia.

The characters are all shallow. You don’t feel anything towards them – be it the protagonist or his friends or his parents. Pankaj himself comes across as a two dimensional character. If you don’t bond with the protagonist, there is very little chance that you will like the book.

The book reads like a last minute attempt in writing something down and getting it published. Or more like take someone’s diary and publish it. The story appears disconnected and things are introduced just to create drama. Nitin’s HIV episode, Pankaj’s stint as a salesman and so on. At one point of time, Pankaj is struggling to get hold of a few hundreds dollars whereas after his salesman days, he is suddenly playing with millions. A little hard to digest, isn’t it?

In the end, it all boils down to what I took back from the book. No inspiration from the story, no memorable characters, no contemplating moments – in the end, there is nothing that I gained from this book. Chhibba’s debut book might not strike a chord with book lovers, so he has try harder next time.