As boys become men by Mukul Kumar is the story of three friends who are aspiring to become IAS officers. They hail from Bihar and stay in Delhi. Apart from studying they dally with girls and drink booze. As a pastime and to remain in Delhi they are pursuing their post graduations too. Will they crack the UPSC examination? How long their romantic alliances last?
The plot with three friends, sleeping around and the benevolent teacher who encourages and helps the protagonist Mihir crack the examination appears to be a straight lift from Chetan’s Bhagat’s novels. But even if the skeleton is borrowed the writer fleshes it up with the early nineties scenario which is fresh and endearing. Had the novel been set up in contemporary times, it would have appeared a cheap Chetan Bhagat clone. But with nineties in the background, we have the old romance which is about just staring at each other for months together, without speaking a word, yet knowing that something is brewing. So there are student protests against the Mandal Commission. The friends are die hard fans of Amitabh Bachan, though they watch Akshay Kumar’s Khiladi as well. This also makes the novel and people in it realistic. The novel depicts the plight of Civil Services aspirants very well. It tries to portray the real picture by showing how a number of students appear for the coveted examination again and again and end up failing without any back up plan in their hands.
The writing is clean and immaculate. I liked the following line in the book ‘If I am not destined to make it in the CS and serve my country, and if my youth has to be consumed by a struggle for living, let it be for the realization of my passion, not just any job for survival.’ I even liked the love making scenes in the novel which are written in the old style. I liked As boys become men for its realistic treatment, the nineties back ground and the honesty which is palpable in the writing.