Professor Chandra Follows His Bliss

A Novel
Trade Paperback

Buy
Add Professor Chandra Follows His Bliss to Goodreads

Follow the eccentric, cantankerous, utterly charming Professor Chandra as he tries to answer the biggest question of all: What makes us happy?

“Searingly funny, uplifting, and wonderful . . . Professor Chandra is as unbending a curmudgeon as one could wish to find scowling from the pages of a novel.”—Helen Simonson, New York Times bestselling author of Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand and The Summer Before the War

Professor Chandra is an internationally renowned economist, divorced father of three (quite frankly baffling) children, recent victim of a bicycle hit-and-run—but so much more than the sum of his parts.

In the moments after the accident, Professor Chandra doesn’t see his life flash before his eyes but his life’s work. He’s just narrowly missed the Nobel Prize (again), and even though he knows he should get straight back to his pie charts, his doctor has other ideas.

All this work. All this success. All this stress. It’s killing him. He needs to take a break, start enjoying himself. In short, says his doctor, he should follow his bliss. Professor Chandra doesn’t know it yet, but he’s about to embark on the journey of a lifetime.

Praise for Professor Chandra Follows His Bliss

“Professor Chandra is a wonderful character—stodgy, flawed, contentious, contemptuous—yet vulnerable, insecure, lonely, repentant, and ridiculous enough to win our sympathy. . . . In the end, Balasubramanyam’s novel is a sort of Christmas Carol for a new age.”—NPR

“Impressively, Balasubramanyam . . . balances satire and self-enlightenment [in] a surprisingly soulful family tale that echoes Jonathan Franzen’s The Corrections in its witty exploration of three children trying to free themselves from the influence of their parents.”The Guardian 

“Funny from start to finish . . . Spending time with Professor Chandra feels like you’ve been in therapy, in a good way.”Irish Times 

“Funny, affecting . . . Chandra is a delightful creation: peevish, intolerant, intellectually exacting, unwittingly eccentric, nerdy, needy yet lovable. The book, like its picaresque hero, is a one-off.”The Sunday Times

Praise

“Professor Chandra is as acerbic and unbending a curmudgeon as one could wish to find scowling from the pages of a novel. Brilliant, pompous, and baffled by the world outside his Cambridge study, Chandra is forced on a reluctant quest to America to find himself and his family. Professor Chandra Follows His Bliss is searingly funny, uplifting, and wonderful.”—Helen Simonson, New York Times bestselling author of Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand and The Summer Before the War

“I loved this beautiful, beautiful book. It’s tender and compassionate, it’s written with exquisite care and verve, and it’s so so so funny.”—Marian Keyes, internationally bestselling author of Angels and Last Chance Saloon 

“By turns charming and witty, [Professor Chandra Follows His Bliss] is an effortless, uplifting read that has many pertinent observations to make about family relationships.”—Daily Mail, “Best New Fiction”

“This brilliant and eloquent novel . . . is a sort of Zen satire in which tolerance and understanding mingle with hilarious criticisms of contemporary mores. . . . A wonderful read.”The Mail on Sunday

“Uplifting literature, or up-lit as it’s called by publishers, is dominating the bestseller charts. . . . One of the funniest . . . is Professor Chandra Follows His Bliss by Rajeev Balasubramanyam. . . . Beneath the comedy lie serious concerns. Wellness, capitalism, mollycoddled minds intolerant of political difference: Balasubramanyam’s issues are current.”The Sunday Times

“Balasubramanyam sets Chandra on a journey through his hardest feelings, working through the anger and emotional ineptitude that too often conceal his infinite love for his family. At first, Chandra’s children take even his self-blame for selfishness, but subtle changes in his introspection make for a big outward shift. With humor and emotional agility, Balasubramanyam writes a feel-good story that leaves room for feeling bad.”—Booklist

“[A] joyful, heartwarming novel . . . Balasubramanyam invests it with compassion, humor, and kindness. . . . Recommended for anyone looking for a satisfying, uplifting read.”—Library Journal 

“Recovering fuddy-duddy Chandra is a droll creation, and his journey of self-realization feels like the real thing.”Kirkus Reviews  

“Rajeev Balasubramanyam wields considerable humor, the perfect antidote to our polarized and exhausting present, while crafting a tender and thoughtful tale. This is an absolute gem of a book.”Shelf Awareness

“Heartrending, hilarious, and deeply wise, this novel about the clueless Professor Chandra—emotional blockhead, Cambridge don, and Nobel-wannabe—left me in tears when I wasn’t laughing. His crash course in self-realization at seventy reveals how little he actually knows about himself and the crazy family he loves, and that it’s never too late to grow up or follow your bliss wherever it takes you. I could not put this novel down.”—Mark Matousek, author of Sex Death Enlightenment and When You’re Falling, Dive

Excerpt

Chapter 1

It should have been the greatest day of his life. His youngest daughter, Jasmine, had flown from Colorado to share in his triumph. There had been pieces in the Financial Times and the Wall Street Journal which were all but premature celebrations: “Like Usain Bolt in the hundred,” the former read, “like Mrs. Clinton in November, this is one front-runner who cannot lose.” The Academy were famous for their secrecy, their cloak-and-dagger strategies to stave off leaks, but this time even the bookies agreed—the Nobel Prize in Economics 2016 belonged to Professor Chandra.

He did not sleep that night, only lay in bed imagining how he would celebrate. There would be interviews, of course, CNN, BBC, Sky, after which he would take Jasmine out for an early brunch before her flight, perhaps allowing her a glass or two of champagne. By evening the college would have organized a function somewhere in Cambridge. His competitors would be there, all the naysayers and back­stabbers and mediocrities, but Chandra would be magnanimous. He would explain how the million-dollar check and the banquet in December with the King of Sweden meant nothing to him. His real joy lay in being able to repay the faith shown by his departed parents, trusted colleagues, and his old mentor, Milton Friedman, who had once helped him change his tire in the snow in the days when Chandra was still a lowly Associate Professor.

By midmorning he had rehearsed his victory speech a dozen times. Still in his dressing gown, he brought a cup of coffee to his bedroom and placed it by the telephone before stretching out on the bed, his hands behind his head, in anticipation of the call. An hour later his daughter entered to find him snoring on top of the covers.

“Dad, wake up,” said Jasmine, shaking his foot. “Dad, you didn’t get it.”

Chandra did not move. He had waited so long for this, ­suffered through so much; his BA at Hyderabad, his PhD at Cambridge, his first job at the LSE, that punishing decade at Chicago and, after his return to Cambridge, the crash of 2008, the instant vilification of his tribe, the doubts, the pies in face, and every year afterward the knowledge that though his name had been on the committee’s longlist in April and their shortlist in the summer, that 18-carat-gold medal had still ended up in someone else’s fist. This was the year his ordeal was supposed to end, the year that should have made it all worthwhile.

“And who, may I ask, was the lucky recipient this time?”

“There were two of them,” said Jasmine.

Chandra jerked his body erect, shoved two pillows behind his back, his reading glasses onto his nose.

“Names?”

“Can’t remember.”

“Try.”

“Heart and Stroganoff, something like that.”

Chandra groaned. “Not Hart and Holmström?”

“Yeah. I think so.”

“So who will it be next year? Starsky and Hutch?”

“I don’t know, Dad. Maybe.”

“Well, that’s that, then,” he said, pulling the covers over his body and realizing that, were it not for his daughter, he would probably remain in that position until next year.

Ten minutes later Jasmine returned to tell him that a group of journalists were outside the house. Chandra met them, still in his dressing gown, and politely answered their questions. It was his daughter’s idea to invite them in for coffee, which meant he ended up sitting at his kitchen table with four members of the local press: one from the Grantchester Gazette, one from the Anglia Post, and two from the Cambs Times.

“We’re so sorry, sir,” said a young woman from the Gazette, who appeared close to tears.

“It was yours,” said the man from the Times, who smelled of gin. “We were hoping for a fine party tonight.”

“Well, now, now,” he replied, touched by their kindness. “C’est la vie.”

“It should have been you, sir,” said the woman. “It simply should have been you.”

“Oh, de rien, de rien,” he said, wishing he could stop speaking French, a language he had no knowledge of at all. “Laissez-faire.”

Before the journalists left he assured them he was delighted for the winners and was glad it was all over and was looking forward to seeing them again next year. His performance fooled everyone except for Jasmine who for the rest of the morning repeated the same sentence with a seventeen-year-old’s mercilessness, asking, “Are you all right, Dad? Are you all right?” keeping at it no matter what he said until finally, on the way to the airport, he lost his temper and shouted, “Can’t you see I’m fine?”

In the past he would have assumed Jasmine’s inquisition was motivated only by sweetness and concern, but now Chandra was convinced there was malice involved, that Jasmine had finally entered into the family tradition of torturing the patriarch, if this was what he still was, for she was a teenager now and lived with her mother in Boulder who blamed him not only for the divorce, three years old now, but also for the rise of Ebola and Boko Haram.

As soon as he reached home the phone began to ring with a stream of condolence calls that continued throughout the day and then, more sporadically, for the rest of the week. For the following month people he barely knew stopped him in the street to offer their sympathies, men and women who couldn’t have named three economists had their lives depended on it.

By November the hysteria had died down, replaced by horror at the U.S. election, and it was then that Chandra realized, in all probability, he would never win the prize now. The odds had gone down a decade before when the Bengali had worked his unctuous charm, but even if time enough elapsed for ­another Indian to win, the field had changed. For years eco­nomists had wantonly obscured their profession, rendering everything absurdly technical with incompressible logarithms such that they were treated more like mystic seers than social scientists. Economics was little more than a poor man’s ­mathematics now, but Chandra still struggled with calculus, ­considering it beneath him, a task for a penniless research assistant.

In any case, his slide to the right was hardly something the Scandinavians were likely to reward; that sub-subcontinent of mediocrity would consider it a signal of intellectual and moral deviance. It was what Chandra loathed most about liberals—their shameless self-righteousness, as if the species’ failings were always someone else’s fault, while anything they did, murder and arson included, were heroic acts in the service of liberty and justice. In point of fact, the Swedes weren’t even liberals. They were neutrals, abstainers who behaved as if they had deliberately chosen not to become a superpower in the interests of preserving their objectivity.

Chandra wished he had just one Swedish student he could torment mercilessly, but the closest thing was a Dutch girl with an American accent who was, regrettably, quite bright. And so he went on giving his lectures and affecting the appearance of a man too wrapped up in his own research to notice that such a petty and trivial thing as the Nobel Prize even existed.

Untamed

#1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • In her most revealing and powerful memoir yet, the beloved activist, speaker, and bestselling author of Love Warrior and Carry On, Warrior explores the joy… More

Buy Yourself the F*cking Lilies

Brutally honest, often hilarious, hard-won lessons in learning to love and care for yourself from a young vice president at Comedy Central who was called “ahead of her time” by Jordan Peele… More