Why I hate ‘a Chetan Bhagat’?
I have often being asked this question. Setting the records straight here. Note the 'a Chetan Bhagat' tag I’ve used, I desist his books and not the man himself.
To begin with, I have mixed feelings about critics (even more than the aforementioned author). The often lapped up axiom that 'if you can't create, you criticize' is what I believe in strongly. A critic, if constructive, is a great asset- a mirror in whose haunting yet relevant words, you find a source to better your work and attain an equilibrium. A destructive, callous, self absorbed critic however is a vile accident that is best avoided and whose unrestrained opinions ignored. In compiling this blog I shall walk a thin line that separates, yet makes me one with the two personalities I described above.
The first time I read a Chetan Bhagat, I was excited...it’s not always that an Indian writer gets noticed and respected by his own people. We might admire a Jumpa Lahiri, Salman Rushidie or a Robin Sharma yet these authors write primarily for an international market. The home-bred ones like Amitav Ghosh, Arundathi Roy or even a Shobha De are dipped entirely in the cauldron of their imagination and forget that the common Indian, the one who doesn't believe writing is even a legitimate career, is hardly concerned with beautiful imagery and words with enough tonnage to sink any rekindled interest. The likes of Kushwanth Singh or a Vikram Seth are part of folklore yet their works are considered more historical than current while my personal idol, R.K Narayan has left a huge footprint that stands testimony to Indian writing's woes by its mere presence. Sigh...
Into this maze walks the unexpected writer, Mr. Chetan Bhagat. With works that connected with the everyday Indian- the college students, the stay at home wives and those 'busy' government employees, he generated an interest and following that was seldom seen or heard in an Indian context till then. The secret to this great revival was the fact that 'literature' has risen out, like a reanimated Phoenix, and become the property of the common Jane/Joe and not just the culturally, intellectually and socially elite. To be caught in a busy evening commute with a latest Nokia and a copy of a Chetan Bhagat, that's enlightened India for you.
Thus ran my initial excitement. Then came the rude shock that for an intellectual, Mr. Bhagat's sense of perception, timing and grammar skills was painfully rudimentary and spoke of a little kid who got lucky with the magic lamp that he found in the attic. I persisted, infact "5 Point Someone: What not to do at IIT!" was a good read marred by poor imagination and presentation skills. With "One Night @ the Call Center", the bucket was finally kicked. No more...Hence, for quite a while afterwards I spoke with spitting venom about his shortcomings. My friends, all great fans resisted and prodded me about my attitude- shades of the bad critic. Thus, after a long while of indifference, I decided to take another shot at the debated issue. Is it just me or something they don’t see??
After about a month since I started, I finally finished an excruciating read of Mr. Bhagat's "2 States- the Story of my Marriage". (It allowed me a chance to test out the e-book concept, Nah...Not sticking with the idea. What’s a read if the comfort factor is subtracted from it?) On and on I trudged, and finally I ended my quest. What did I have to say to Mr. Bhagat afterwards??
1) With upto 50+ spell errors, did you use a word processor to write this thing or a chisel and a flat slab of granite?
2) Why give an example for everything? Every description, intended or unintended, is followed by an equally sketchy example.
3) Is callous racist remarking the new standup comedy? I am told your biggest demographic are the 16-25 slotted generation- that’s the future of your supposed ‘united’ India.
4) An absolutely touching and remarkable story. Nevertheless, why corrupt it with silly self centric detailing?
5) Is there an excuse for the flabby piece of flotsam that was the climax? The last two pages were the literary equivalent of the black plague.
Sir, you have never harped about your grammar- and I am not too keen on that too. However, is bad writing, convenient writing, an excuse? Are we to encourage the current and upcoming generation’s assumption that your version of success is superior to what a R.K Narayan achieved? I distinctively remember reading a segment where you called yourself ‘India’s best writing hope for the future’ and compared yourself to a certain reputed author. What was that!?!
Currently, you are the poster boy of Indian writing, a beacon who is seen with much admiration by a lot of people. Get your game right my man, for your admiring fans deserve the best that you can conjure. The stories that you imagine are evidence to a really imaginative thinking and the presence of an above average intellect. It’s just the lack of attention to details, the simpleton spell errors (btw, your editor ain’t earning his/her worth), and the harping self centric writing that’s got me cursing alongside a whole other segment of informed readers. We wanna cross over…help us with the bridging.
Until then, I stand vindicated.