Bookish Witch

A Pleasant Escape by Piyush Rohankar

Book blurb:

When Alok Shirke decided to prepare for the mother-of-all-exams – UPSC Civil Service – little did he know that the journey would turn out to be much more than just books and classes. He moves from the comfort of his home to the crowded lanes of Old Rajinder Nagar. A chance encounter with Sarah seems like destiny’s compensation for all his hard work. He also meets buddies for a lifetime. Their life-stories of love, regret, friendship and shattered dreams take him through Kashmir and Turkey; from brothels to hospitals; and from dingy quarters to the hallowed halls of UPSC. When life finally seems to be coming back on track, he stumbles upon a truth that is bound to change him and the rest of his life.
Will Alok crack the exam, or will be just one of the many soon-forgotten aspirants? Will a strange revelation make him see his life as A Pleasant Escape?

Genre: Fiction/Drama

Pages: 197

Format: Kindle eBook/Paperback


  • Kindle eBook: 49 INR/ $4.99
  • Paperback (available only in India) : 152 INR

My Ratings: 4.3/5

This book aptly describes the journey from being an IAS aspirant to becoming an IAS officer. We all know about the civil services and how tough it is to crack the competitive exams for becoming a civil servant. Read this one to go through a virtual journey which tells us the ins and outs of the Indian UPSC exams, alongside some fictional, and unexpected twists, inspired from real events.  

What I liked about the book: 

—> The name of the protagonist is revealed much later in the book, and yet we feel connected to him right from the beginning. 

—> Ankit and Sakshi are of course the most intriguing side characters, but besides them too, the characters of Manish, Balram, Mustafa, Hazal, and towards the end even Manish’s sister, Rashmi, are equally well written and will compel us to feel compassionate towards their misfortunes. 

—> It tackles actual events like the passing of the Jan Lokpal Bill and the events that led to it, the Nirbhaya case, the situation in Turkey, etc, without making it seem too oppressive. 

—> The virtual tour through Delhi’s historical monuments. 

—> It clearly makes the point that cracking the UPSC and becoming a civil servant is no cake walk, but it also needs some percentage of luck. 

—> Alok’s trip to Guwahati and how it sheds light on the state of the people there. 

—> Alok’s argument in the beginning regrading legalising of prostitution in India, is something I completely agree with. 

—> Alok’s good deeds like saving Rashmi and making an effort to help Mr Das and Bulbul. 

What I did not like about the book:

—> Alok’s seeming immediate infatuation with every beautiful female he comes across. 

—>After a point it becomes confusing and tiring to keep up with the names and stories of so many characters. 

Quotable quotes: 

—> Writing is like purgation of the mind.

—> A simple white page becomes the canvas that brings to life people who leave an imprint on our minds.

—> It is the reader who adds true meaning to the work and who is reflected in the work.

—> Right and wrong depends on a person’s perspective. In itself, nothing is ever right or wrong.

—> A person can be judgmental or non-judgmental. Only to a judgmental mind are things right and wrong.

—> A long silence in the midst of a discussion is considered as an acceptance of defeat.

—> Clearing the Civil Service exam, supposedly the toughest in the country, is a game of probability you play with a loaded dice. No matter which room you make a home in, the hopeless helplessness is the exact same in them all.

—> I called Old Monk ‘students’ drink’ because it is the cheapest good quality liquor a student can afford.

—> Great determination is publicly displayed only after a person is slightly drunk.

—> Saturday and Sundays were no longer special. Each day felt the same. It was as if somebody had erased the names of days from my calendar.

—> An assertive and outgoing girl, she was confident in the way she talked. Maybe it was the JNU effect, where they like teaching you to think and agitate – but sometimes only for the heck of agitating!

—> Do we dare call ourselves human? Is this what we do to the best among us? If so, why should I try to be my best? To suffer like Manish and his family? That’s too high a price to pay!

—> What option does life leave for us if not to laugh at ourselves and our life?

—> “We have the rest of our lives for enjoyment once we clear UPSC,” 

“Man, you sound just like my father. He says the same thing. I wonder if a Civil Service job is meant for enjoyment. No wonder our country is suffering because the Civil Servants are busy enjoying their life.”

—> Certain things are not said in so many words, it’s a given.

—> The preparation for UPSC Civil Service turns people melancholic and morose.

—> It’s just society that has got things wrong. Can’t a man and woman just be friends?

—> Not everyone is corrupt. Don’t see people in such a negative way.

—> So many people called me that day. It hurt to realize that I had to become an IAS for people to think of me. Being the person that I am wasn’t enough for the world. I was sad by the end of the day, somehow.

—> When I told my parents that I had cleared the Prelims they reacted casually, as if the result was no surprise to them. It was as if they had known, even before I was born, that I was meant to clear the toughest exam in the country! There was nothing unconditional about their love. If you obeyed them and chose things that fit into their world-view, only then would you truly deserve their love. The love they tried to shower on me suffocated me.

—> When love is laden with unreasonable expectations and such a deep desire to control, it is bound to suffocate.

—> When you are stuck in a sad phase, everyone else’s life seems to be better and easier than yours. You even become envious of the guy who sells momos.

—> You would be surprised to know that Delhi happens to be the world’s second most bird-rich capital city.

—> Always keep your imagination wild or you will never be able to enjoy this dull life.

—> “What can be worse than ghosts?” 


And how can religion be worse than ghosts?” 

“Religion kills a thousand times more people than ghosts do.”

—> There are good and bad people in all religions.

—> Denial and avoiding confrontation can be comforting, at least for some time.

—> There is solidarity in misery.

—> When words fail to defend, violence takes over.

—> Was the Government, as a way of diverting the attention of the people, trying to create heroes in the riot-affected state by making the aspirants belonging to these states top the Civil Service exam? 

—> If only Indian parents knew how to accept their kids as individuals, everyone would be a lot happier.

—> Poetry was always a medium of escape for me.

—> Love is blind and apparently hasty and impatient too.

—> I had never imagined that caste could be a problem even in such well-educated families. Sakshi’s father is an IPS officer, for god’s sake! He should know better.

—> It was easier to gauging the mood of a woman than that of UPSC!

—> Hatred does this; it drags our attention to the most unpleasant memories.

—> It felt good whenever people praised my poems. That’s one thing that got me excited.

—> Once you clear the exam, you will know why you gave it. It’s just failure that is making you say sad things about it. I think you should first clear it and then criticize, if at all.Then people might appreciate your criticism. Otherwise, they will think it’s a case of sour grapes.

—> No one can understand the games god plays with us humans!

—> It’s hard to give up everything and become a writer. 

—> If you are a good writer and if your product is good, you will sell.

—> “I have zeroed in on a publishing house and hopefully, the novel should be out by the end of next month.” 

“Congratulations! That’s wonderful news.Treat!” 

“Sure! But there is a lot to be done. I have to shoot the trailer/ teaser for the novel along with designing the website for the novel. Then I have to promote my book on social media by setting up a blog and twitter account. I think the real work will start after the book is released as I will have to take my book to the public and build an audience for my next book.” (The truth about being an author/writer right there in two paragraphs)

—> Sometimes things don’t add up in life even if you try to make it work.

—> It was a very unpleasant feeling to be giving your best to someone and things still not working out.

 —> We all spend all our lives struggling to see those dreams materialize and fight for our beliefs. What is the purpose of these grand plans when there is no certainty of life? Who will teach us how to live every second and be grateful, how to love deeply and laugh like a child?

—> I made a lot of new Facebook friends; the more friends I made, the emptier I felt. Desperate to alleviate my feelings of loneliness, I sent and received friend requests to and from random strangers.

—> No woman is born a prostitute but made into one by men and sometimes by other women.

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