Review by: Archana Sarat
“Five-Point Someone” is a funny yet touching story about the life of three friends at IIT, Delhi. The story is narrated by Hari who has a five point something GPA, just like his friends, Alok and Ryan. This GPA affects not only their education and career but their friendship and love life too.
Ryan is displeased with the IIT life revolving around just assignments, notes, tests and examinations. He calls IIT a ‘jail’ and the students as ‘moronic drones’. He encourages Alok and Hari to fight against the system and they end up screwing the first class quiz. Hari says, “You can’t screw with the system too much, it comes back to screw you.”
While Ryan is rich with parents settled abroad, Alok is poor with an invalid father and a mother who works as a school teacher. Hari is the middle class fat kid who gets hit by the car driven by Professor Cherian’s daughter, Neha, during an early morning jogging session. He is smitten by her and she doesn’t seem to mind going out for ice-creams with him. However, except for watching movies, hand holding and a few cheek-kisses, Neha keeps Hari at bay. Neha tells Hari about her dead brother Samir who was very close to her.
Ryan is displeased with the lack of creativity at IIT. He asks, “Has IIT ever invented anything? Or made any technical contribution to India?” He refuses to put his nose to the grindstone and spends time playing squash and chess and watching movies and the US – Iraq war. Alok and Hari are completely led astray by Ryan and they end up with five point something GPAs ruling out chances of US scholarships and good jobs. Alok blames Ryan for the mess he finds himself in. He realises that unlike Ryan, he has responsibilities towards his family. So, he breaks away from Ryan and Hari.
Alok attaches himself with Venkat, a serious rote learner. In a year’s time, he becomes a six pointer while Ryan and Hari remain five pointers. Though Ryan is very creative and inventive, his GPA pulls him down in the eyes of professors and they never encourage him with his projects and designs. After a year with Venkat, Alok realises that Venkat cannot think beyond his books and studies. When Alok’s father is seriously ill, Venkat refuses him permission to go home as they have a group Thermo assignment due the next day. However, Ryan saves the day and Alok gratefully attaches himself back into the group.
Ryan throws a party to celebrate the occasion and comes up with the ‘Mice Theory’ – the C2D Plan – Cooperate to Dominate. Since IIT is just a rat race – a ‘mice’ race – Ryan says this plan will beat this ‘unfair’ system. The plan goes on to state that assignments will be shared and others will only copy it, courses will also be divided and only the person responsible will attend and the others will just copy the notes, the lab experiment observations will be shared and even the hostel rooms and vodka cost will be shared. Ryan signs the plan with his blood and forces Hari and Alok to do so too.
C2D works great for the trio and they end up with more free time maintaining the same five-point GPAs. Meanwhile, Ryan enjoys Professor Veera’s courses and the Prof in turn encourages his creativity. Ryan experiments substance mixtures to check lubricant efficiency in a scooter engine in the fluid mechanics lab and Prof Veera asks him to submit a proposal to the institute committee that might decide to give him a research grant. Ryan works hard on the lube project.
Meanwhile, Neha divulges to Hari that Samir did not die in a train accident but committed suicide due to his anguish at his inability to enter the IIT. He writes a suicide note to Neha and asks her not to tell the parents. She does not tell her parents.
The mechanical engineering department and Prof Cherian, Neha’s father, rejects Ryan’s lube project after a year of working the files. Prof Cherian, a tormentor, starts teaching them. Hari tries hard to impress him. To secure an A in his subject, Hari will have to score good in Viva. Hari persistently did not do well in Viva as he gets tongue-tied in stressful situations in spite of knowing the answers. To avoid such a situation, Ryan suggests he take a shot of vodka. However, that lands him in trouble with Prof Cherian and gets him a zero in Viva.
To make up for it, the trio launch ‘Operation Pendulum’, wherein they plan to steal the keys to Cherian’s office and lay their hands on the question paper for the majors. On the D day morning, Hari meets Neha at her house and along with losing his virginity to her, he manages to steal Prof Cherian’s keys and get a duplicate set made. While he takes the Prof’s car out to buy cigarettes for himself and Neha, he is caught by Prof Cherian who realises that something is going on between his daughter and Hari. He warns Hari sternly.
Later on in the day, they launch their plan. However, the best laid plan goes astray and the trio are caught in the act and have to face a Disciplinary Committee hearing. To save themselves from the wrath of Cherian and the other professors, they lie that Neha handed over the keys to Hari to get even with her father. Though the lie saves them from expulsion, they get kicked out for one semester and need to wait for another year to complete the course. This means they will not be able to land on any jobs. The disappointment breaks Alok and he jumps off the roof. He breaks 13 bones but survives and returns back to college in 2 months.
Prof Veera encourages all three of them to work on the lube project on the Dean’s approval which might help explain the absence in the grade sheets later on during interviews.
When Hari and Neha are enjoying ice-cream at a parlour, Prof Cherian enters the place and starts blasting at them. He finds Neha trying to cover up a piece of paper and he takes it from her and reads it. It is Samir’s suicide note and it breaks him. He realises the unnecessary pressure that IIT imposes and starts to soften.
Meanwhile, the trio decide to slog it through the year with full load of courses to make up for the lost credits. Prof Cherian accepts to treat their missed semester as a research semester and decides to give credits for extra lab work so that they can pass out without losing another year.
Alok and Hari land on jobs immediately while Ryan struggles to find one. This is when Prof Veera offers him a position as a Research Assistant. Though the pay is a third of Alok and Hari’s salary, the possibility of finding an investor was high and then, sky was the limit. Ryan’s father offers to fund his project. Ryan refuses but Prof Veera accepts it. With all three of them happily settled with prosperous futures looming ahead, the story ends.
CA Archana Sarat is an author, speaker and blogger.