Sunday, October 21, 2012

Book review- Johny Gone down by Karan Bajaj

Just finished reading this book- Johny Gone Down by Karan Bajaj. Before I write about the book, couple of questions to you.

What's your idea of adventure? A trek to nearby hills? Bungee jumping? Karting?
What's your idea of success? A good job with nice pay? being able to retire as CEO/chairman of some company? An expensive car?

Have you tried any of these?
  • Have you tried surviving in a remote jungle all alone for couple of days?
  • Have you ever fired at someone with a gun? Have you ever been in the line of fire?
  • Have you imagined how it will if one day you'll have to shed all your money, identity and live in a different country under a totally new identity?
Most of us wouldn't have done any of the above and only thing we complain is about delayed promotions, not enough pay, traffic problems and so on.

If you agree, you should read "Johny Gone Down"
Johny Gone Down is the story of an MIT Graduate, who's seemingly well settled life with a NASA job in hand gets destroyed after an impromptu trip to Cambodia. Just as they reach there, the civilian govt is overpowered by a coup and law & order goes for a toss. As they run for cover, our hero hands over his US passport to a friend Sam (since Sam didn't have a US passport and couldn't enter US embassy for safety). As our hero, Nikhil flees, he's captured, tortured and his existence wiped out. He survives the captivity, escapes to Thailand, becomes a monk. After 8 years or so, goes to Brazil (Rio De Jenerio) to setup a monastery. One fine day he decides to leave the monastery, happens to meet a drug dealer, saves his life from a gun shot and befriends him. He works as accountant for the drug don, helps him set up some legitimate business. As their business empire grows, other drug dealers get jealous of this outsider and launch an attack on him. To survive, our hero flees to US with a new identity of an uneducated plumber.

He comes in contact with a MIT graduate who's trying to invent something big. He learns computers there and designs Anotherlife (same as Second life) . Another turn of events and he's sent to Delhi for a game of death (shooting self with a revolver). Survives there, escapes and happens to meet Sam, who along with other MIT alumni are very rich people now. Our hero, who was always regretting the turn of events in his life and was feeling sad that he couldn't make it big. But eventually he realizes that he's lived a most fruitful life- facing so many challenges, surviving worst situations and achieving what very few would have managed.

Some comments on the book:
Well narrated, very realistic story line, different from regular novels involving romance, politics, crime etc

It is impossible for one individual to build a second life kind of website in an year's time. It takes a large team to rollover such a thing. To believe that our hero learnt everything from scratch (programming basics, graphics, access control, animations, online payments, 3D and so on) and built a in an year's time is unrealistic. But this is a novel, so we'll leave it at that.

Why would an airline fly civilians into Cambodia 2 days after Riot- Our hero didn't check with MIT's international affairs section about political situation in Cambodia, but Airline crew and airport authorities would have warned passengers about this.

Book has no unnecessary text. Editing has been precise and book is confined to 300 odd pages despite a vast subject spanning across several countries. Because of this, reading it is also easy, as there's no extra text thrown in to fill pages. I started reading it during my train journey- started at 5 PM, I was done by 7 AM next day, about 6-7 hours of sleep.

This novel also got me interested in Cambodian history. I'm doing some reading on that now

It also indicates how dangerous it can be, to travel to unknown countries without doing some research

Do read this book, its priced at INR 99, so very affordable.

Image sourced from internet