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Asok, the first Indian comic character to win hearts all over

August 10, 2007 11:20 IST

Long before film-crazy Indian-American Raj Patel joined Archie, Jughead, Veronica and their gang in Riverdale High, Asok had made his way into Dilbert -- the enormously popular comic strip about the corporate world.

In 1996, Asok, an ex-IITian, debuted as a summer intern in the satirical script that dwells on high pressure workplaces. Scott Adams, the creator, named Asok after an Indian colleague.

The character is a brilliant graduate who solves difficult problems with a few keystrokes and believes he is "mentally superior to most people on Earth". However, he soon ends up being a scapegoat for his colleagues' antics and realises that intelligence always doesn't help in the workplace.

When Adams introduced the Indian Institute of Technology -- the place where "Asok learned to use his huge brain" -- in the strip, most alumni thought the character was too stereotyped.

Perpetrating some Indian stereotypes, Asok is trained to sleep only on national holidays and can reheat tea by holding it to his forehead and imagining fire.

In 2006, Asok was laid off when his job was outsourced to India -- so he joined the company where his job was outsourced and worked according to the "Indian Standard Time".

Asok was earlier denied permission to be a regular employee even though he performed the functions of a senior engineer and was told "as you gain experience, you'll realise that all logical questions are considered insubordination".

In one strip, the Boss asks Asok "to create a presentation that will save our department from being eliminated. You must quantify the unquantifiable and that can only be done by a process that I call lying."

A naive Asok then asks, "Lying is a process?" And the Boss says, "It can be, if you use enough slides."

The strip is famous for its one liners. Sample this: Never argue with an idiot. They drag you down to their level and then beat you with experience; I don't have an attitude problem, you have a perception problem; I love deadlines, especially the whooshing sound they make as they go flying by.

Lamat R Hasan in New Delhi
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