9 to 5 Cubicle Tales by Harish Rijhwani puts a hand on the sore spots of corporate personnel

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9 to 5 Cubicle Tales by Harish Rijhwani puts a hand on the sore spots of corporate personnel

Harish C. Hijhwani's fourth book and first fiction, '9 to 5 Cubicle Tales', offers a comprehensive rundown on the middle-class people working in IT-based corporate jobs during the early 2000s.

The hassle of mundane corporate jobs is a reality for many, especially in metropolitan cities. Harish C. Rijhwani's debut fiction novel, '9 to 5 Cubicle Tales', captures such lives juggling multiple tasks well through a long-winded yet captivating disclosure of the operations of the IT jobs. The first book of the Cubicle Tales fiction series by Rijhwani — who has been an IT professional for the last 20 years — also seems to be an articulation of his own experiences of working in corporate jobs.


The book begins in Pune, where a family of three, including a wife of a recently-deceased man and two children — one of who is Hridaan Rajdev, also the narrator and the protagonist — are denied their paternal property, making them move to Mumbai, where lives Rajdev's maternal grandfather too. While adapting to a new city seems difficult for the two young kids, Hridaan and his sister Charvi, who are newly introduced to less-privileged lives post their father's death, Hridaan also struggles with his decision to become an engineer but remains resilient and land on a corporate job in an IT firm dealing in the healthcare domain. There begins a different life for the 22-year-old Hridaan, who finds himself in a new space aiming to learn and performs his best in his job as it holds great importance for him and his family. The trail of witnessing numerous hurdles and office politics, along with some fun moments, continues with him even after he gets a major breakthrough in his work life, transporting him abroad for work.

With an elementary language, '9 to 5 Cubicle Tales' sits well not just with avid readers but also beginners. What is even more remarkable about the book is the detailed character sketch laid down by Rijhwani that breathes life into the personalities that could, otherwise, have been unimaginative humdrum characters. No doubt why Rijhwani credits a few 'Creative Writing' courses he did from British Council Library before writing the book. In an interview with Local Samosa, he, who has already written three non-fiction books explaining the mechanism of IT healthcare before this, said, "I wanted to be fully prepared and trained before venturing into writing fiction."

In addition to the characters, Rijhwani has devoted a significant amount of time in describing locations, objects, and events in his book. He frequently includes onomatopoeic sounds like "Vroom" and "Clang" to add to the vividness of the situations. The book's cover also contributes to the overall appeal of the story, as it visually depicts the protagonist's journey and captures the reader's attention.

Owing to Rijhwani's own experiences of residing in Mumbai, he has also been able to draw many realistic scenes of the lives of middle-class people in Mumbai through the protagonist's strolls to stations, pragmatic encounters with police personnel, auto drivers saying "no" more than "yes" to customers, inconvenience in taking a B.E.S.T bus and even the repercussions of heavy rains in Mumbai leading to flood-like situations that bar the usual commutation in the city. Other than that, the author has also used 'Google Street View' to make the places appear relevant.

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The book does a great job of depicting the struggles of middle-class life, including the dilemma of whether to spend or save money, illustrated by popular proverbs like "Make hay while the sun shines," as Hridaan's grandfather advises him. The author also impressively addresses the societal treatment of widowed women by highlighting their behaviors towards them in the early parts of the book, which evokes empathy towards the protagonist's mother. In addition to portraying the characters and their lives, the book also provides detailed descriptions of popular Mumbai street food and the food preferences of the Sindhi community, to which both the protagonist and Rijhwani belong.


Harish C. Rijhwani, the author of 9 to 5 Cubicle Tales

However, not all readers may find the detailed descriptions engaging. Although the book starts off strong, it can become repetitive in some chapters while attempting to portray the challenges of corporate life. While the author's intention was to connect with readers who are themselves part of the corporate world, this relatability may not extend to all readers. Some may be disappointed, as the story seems to get lost amidst the extensive detailing of scenes and situations. Although the book does pick up pace after the 20th chapter, some readers may find it difficult to stay invested in the story.

As easily as some parts and chapters of the book could have been removed to make it less lengthy, some of the instances could also have been better worked upon too to make them even more realistic scenes. Moreover, unlike the author's claim to have depicted a "work-life balance" and "juggling corporate and family life" throughout the story, the book hardly mentions the protagonist's family in most of the chapters. In a bigger picture, what also poses a question to the readers is why the book is not set in a contemporary time but in the early 2000s.

On the other hand, Rijhwani effectively portrays life in the early 2000s, with references to Nokia phones, shopping through eBay and Walmart, and other giants that no longer have a place in contemporary lifestyle but evoke a sense of nostalgia throughout the book. As the protagonist's roller-coaster ride progresses, readers become increasingly invested in the story. Although the book purports to offer solutions to corporate challenges, the subjectivity and intensity of these issues make it advisable for readers to decide for themselves. Regardless, the book serves as a reminder that they are not alone in their struggles.

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