Serious Men, By Manu Joseph

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The Independent Culture

One of the strongest debuts of 2010, this bittersweet Mumbai tale of high minds and low plots never quite won the plaudits it deserves. Now – with a more populist, even Slumdog Millionaire-ish cover - it has a second chance.

More Lucky Jim than White Tiger, Joseph's novel follows Ayyan, a low-caste drudge at the scientific Institute, that noble "asylum for great minds".

He schemes a stellar future for himself and 10-year-old son Adi (A Brief History of Time? "I don't like it"). Harassed star-gazer Arvind listens to Pavarotti while solving the "remaining mysteries of the universe" such as extraterrestrial life...

Touching, hilarious, this collision between the Mumbai of stars and of mud rediscovers a deep Indian vein of humane and sophisticated comedy.