One Night at the Call Center by Chetan Bhagat is narrated by Shyam, a call center agent in Gurgaon, India. We learn about him and his call center colleagues (Priyanka, Vroom, Esha, Radhika and Military Uncle) and see how their lives are turned upside down in one night while they’re working their shift. When they have reached the end of the road, they get a call from God which helps give them a push to take control of their lives.
- Shyam is the narrator who feels inadequate and has low self-esteem; he aspires to become team leader of his group at the call center in hopes Priyanka will want him again.
- Priyanka is the ex-girlfriend to Shyam; she is under pressure by her mother and family to agree to an arranged marriage; she is working at the call center to earn money towards her B.Ed.
- Vroom is the best friend to Shyam; he hates his call center job; he used to be a journalist and has a crush on Esha.
- Esha aspires to be a model and is working at the call center until she gets her big break.
- Radhika was recently married and is living with her husband and mother-in-law; she is working at the call center to provide for her family and has had to adhere to more traditional customs now that she is with her husband’s family.
- Military Uncle is a quiet man who deals with customers through the online chat instead of the phones; he has family issues with his son who does not want him to see his grandson.
This book has a little extra something. Bhagat put himself in the prologue and epilogue, making the call center a story within a story. Bhagat meets a woman on a train and in agreeing to listen to her story, he has to make it his next novel. She recounts the call center story and at the end, Bhagat tries to figure out who the woman is: Priyanka, Esha or Radhika. We never find out for sure, but he implies that the woman is God.
This book fits into the “Fantastic” genre because it deals with the supernatural and the implied reader’s hesitation. Firstly, readers do not know whether or not the Bhagat in the prologue and epilogue is his true self or a version of himself. And did this train sequence actually happen? Secondly, readers cannot know for sure if the woman on the train is actually God or if the call center story actually happened. Bhagat wants us to believe that she is God because of the “holy text” she was reading; he implies that she is supernatural and may have conjured up a book, “Her blanket moved, uncovering a book I hadn’t noticed before.” Bhagat also uses the symbolism of the dawn light and how she glowed.
Although the story took place in one night, we get a lot of character development and I feel that this is the driving force of the novel. The characters were well rounded and felt very real. I also enjoyed this book because I work in customer service, which means that I understand the characters’ frustrations when dealing with annoying customers. In customer service, there is a lot that is scripted and made into a routine that gets old. It’s not the kind of job I like to be in.
It was a fun read. I had a hard time putting the book down!
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