Rating : 4 stars
‘This is not a memoir. I’m not a president or an astronaut or a Kardashian. This is a collection of stories from my life.’ This disclaimer on the back cover along with the bio of the author (Kunal Nayyar, who is best known for his role as the geeky Raj Koothrappali from the popular TV show The Big Bang Theory) enticed me to pick up this book*. While I’m not a great fan of the TV series, the disclaimer intrigued me by its rather down-to-earth manner.
Nayyar adopts an innovative writing style. Some of the chapters read like a narration, with the humour and wit of a stand-up comedian, and others have a feel of an episodic sitcom, complete with a beginning, middle and a comic punchline. Through the collection of stories you get a peek into Nayyar’s life—his growing up years in Delhi, his hilarious efforts to fit into American college life and find girlfriends, his victories and failures as a stage actor and finally his triumph at being selected for one of the most popular TV shows. And perhaps the biggest personal triumph of them all: his wooing of a former Miss India and their seven-day elaborate shaadi.
He peppers the narrative with some ‘thoughts recorded on an aeroplane cocktail napkin’ and random advice on everything from wooing girls to eating healthy. A sample:
“Women love it when men say words like adorable, ideally in an adorable accent… If you like something—call it adorable. If you think someone is pretty—tell her she’s gorgeous. If you want to talk about your bowels—always use the word poop. Don’t say you like sex—say you like making love. Use these words early and often—moral ineptitude, primarily, morality, and lovely.”
Even while keeping it cool and irreverent, Nayyar is also endearingly honest about his “life lessons”. While talking about being rejected as an actor time and again he says,
“I would like to say, ‘you get used to these disappointments’, but that would be a lie. It always hurts. It feels the same whether you’re auditioning for a fifth-grade pageant or Cabaret in college or Romeo & Juliet in grad school or a Broadway show or a blockbuster Hollywood movie. The stage might be different, but if you care and you’ve invested all of yourself in the audition, the stakes are the same.”
At another point Nayyar writes,
“Too often we focus on the greater schemes in life, like making money or getting promoted at work or starting a new relationship—and yes, of course, those things matter—but sometimes it’s the tiny, gradual, stepping-stone victories that bring the real joy and signify the positive changes in our life.”
It’s an easy read—there are plenty of laugh out loud moments. And then there are the quiet ones, which leave you with just a hint of the heartburn and angst that the actor has tucked away deep within. I wish there had been a bit more about his experience of working on The Big Bang Theory. Despite that minor peeve, it made for an enjoyable read. Pick it up if you’re a fan of Raj and The Big Bang Theory. If not, read it just to find out how a guy with a real Indian accent managed to ‘fit in’ into the big bad world of Hollywood.