Delhi's 'Dilbert' Character Can't Die!

On the "Dilbert" message boards, Ryan Mulligan wrote, "You didn't kill off Asok the intern did you, monkey brain??? He was my favorite character in your comic strip. I often tried using Pointy Haired Boss's tactics on my interns just to see what happened. PLEASE bring Asok back!!!"

And on, someone named Amir actually took the time to write a short eulogy: "Alas, poor Asok, you have taught us well — how to believe, how be hopeful even at times of unbelievable stupidity, how to strive to change the system from within, even when the system is trying to chew you up. You will forever be a loving memory in our mind. Rest in peace, Asok."

On the campus of IIT, one student who regularly reads "Dilbert," said he saw a greater meaning in Asok's character (and survival).

"He's a hardworking fellow who can't get ahead in life," Khullar said. "I think what [creator] Scott Adams is trying to portray is that intelligent people from Third World countries can't break the glass ceiling."

Adams and I had a conversation over e-mail about Asok, "Dilbert" and whether as an intern he also had to wear polka-dot ties.

Schifrin: Does Asok get e-mails? Spam? Viagra, Propecia ads?

Adams: I'm sure he gets them all. And if he's anything like me, it makes him feel bald and flaccid.

Schifrin: Is Asok a typical Indian? A typical intern? A typical IIT graduate?

Adams: I try to keep him typical and extraordinary at the same time. My favorite Asok comic alleged that he could warm his tea by holding it near his head.

Schifrin: What shapes your knowledge of IIT?

Adams: I know a number of graduates personally. And they are often in the news.

Schifrin: Ever been to India?

Adams: No, I don't get out much.

Schifrin: Why'd you kill Asok?

Adams: It was his turn. I killed Dilbert years ago. He came back too. I plan to kill them all eventually.

Schifrin: Why'd you bring him back?

Adams: He's too popular to leave dead. And I enjoy writing for him.

Schifrin: Is "Dilbert" documentary or fiction — for you and for your readers?

Adams: It's fiction suggested by fact. But many of the strips are more fact than fiction. I just give them a little twist.

Schifrin: Where were you an intern? Did you have to wear a polka-dotted tie?

Adams: I was never an intern. My first job was bank teller. I was robbed twice at gunpoint. My dream was to someday be an intern.

Schifrin: Will Asok be given any special privileges now that he's fallen on the sword for his company?

Adams: Interns never get rewarded.

Schifrin: What question(s) did I forget to ask?

Adams: Why am I so sexy? (It happened after I bought some products I saw in my spam.)

For Adams, the only human being on the planet to apparently benefit from spam, his "Dilbert" duties are done in a few hours every morning and he is running multiple restaurants in northern California. As for Asok, Adams says the Indian intern is now "on the boundary of gaining the necessary cynicism to survive." Perhaps that means his resurrection will bring greater street smarts, but not likely.

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