Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Why Chetan Bhagat affects my life

I worry for the infant. I have caught him staring at the TV screen, playing with (and eating) the remote on more occasions than I can count on his tiny toes. I have watched him watch his dad as he goes on about vanquishing the populace of strange lands with his PS3 controller(with headphones on of course; he claims he doesn’t want his son to ‘hear violence’).

And so, I worry. I worry that, if the infant continues at this rate, one day he will grow up and read Chetan Bhagat’s novels and think they are literature. Who knows, by the time he goes to school, a few of them might also make it to his syllabus (you never know).

So I am going to do what might seem pushy or ambitious. Get him to read before he even begins to sit up. Introduce him to the world of Roald Dahl, Lewis Carroll, CS Lewis, JD Salinger and all my childhood favourites, so that, at the very least, he is equipped to tell the difference between good writing and bad writing. So that the only reason he buys a book is not because it is priced at Rs 65 (or whatever is the current discounted price of Bhagat’s books ), but because it stimulates his mind, because it makes him want to look at things in a different way, because it is written in a way that makes him fall in love with writing (again, I am not skewing him, but you get my point).

Yes, I know I am fast-forwarding his babydom here, but if I don’t do it now, it might have dire consequences.

I don’t know Chetan Bhagat and have no intentions of knowing him. I haven’t read his books and have no intentions of reading them (although I did read a few pages of one of his books, pages so eminently forgettable that I don’t even remember the title of the book). Even the fracas over 3 Idiots doesn’t make me mildly curious about Five Point Someone.

What I do have a problem with is Bhagat comparing himself to Tolkien. I have a problem with the bigness of his head taking precedence over the bigness of his writing, and (in his own words) him saying, “They don’t know how big I am amongst my fans,”...

That, to me is a writer’s greatest undoing. I have a problem with a writer putting his mouth before his craft.

But there is still a lesson here. What I would like my infant to learn from Mr Braggart (sorry, couldn’t resist) is the art of positioning. The art of creating an audience before creating a product. The art of brand extension and regurgitation. The art of mixing, matching, recycling, and starting all over again. The art of creating readers in a generation where there were none.

Never mind if they are readers whose childhood completely bypassed reading. They are still readers, right? So who am I to judge?


  1. Hey,

    I really like reading your column! Glad you are here on the blogosphere now! :)

    Abt Chetan Bhagat... well, u gotta give it to the man, that he introduced "books" to an entire generation grown up on Saas Bahu soaps (not me!!)

    Good Column, again!

  2. "one day he will grow up and read Chetan Bhagat’s novels and think they are literature"

    But you called them 'novels'! ha ha ha...

  3. Hi, new to your blog, good one.

    I once heard a classmate profess that she loves reading and carries a book around all the time... and a fat one - namely Twilight.

    I felt exactly the same way - They're still reading. Even if its thanks to clever marketing.

  4. haha....CB is a gimmick...but the authors u mentioned wrote abt 3rd century BC..the world changes and so should literature or the craft becomes irrelevant!

  5. I will not call chetan bhagat 'bad writing', rather he is easy writing-true though he has nothing to do with literature. I read on of his writing, which my sister bought, I found his wring unimaginative, predictable and funny-mind you, not humorous.
    And I would say you are doing justice to your baby-for he has every right to know what art of writing really is, and not that anything easily written can be food for artistic mind.
    please start him off with great Expectations, lest he should be warned today.

  6. i further like to add that chetan bhagat may not be an up to mark artist bu he made every person I know, who earlier had never touched any form of literature have started reading chetan Bhagat and swear to it being good. Guess either I made a wrong start with his writing, or it is just beginners who could have become Bhagats fan at all.

  7. I completely agree that chetan bhagat would only appeal to beginners.I have read all his books and have come to the conclusion that I simply wasted my time and money.All his books have the same idea and the same observation. I wonder if anyone noticed that in all his books he makes the female the first one to initiate the physical intimacy. He is living his dream in his book.Going by his bragging and stupid attitude no girl would have approached him. Maybe he introduced reading to a generation of non-readers but I pity what this non-readers read and liked.

  8. I would like to say that do read the book before commenting on it. I have done it and I m rightfully entitled to my views about him.

  9. CB is baddd ...entirely understandable. no substance, no matter...no characters, no real story...reality show here??

    what would u recommend to a generation that refuses to touch anything remotely'good'..(going by 'our' perceptions and undrstanding ...'twilight'.?...tooo light i think...

  10. 'The art of creating readers in a generation where there were none.' - Chetan Bhagat has done just that, inspite of his 'bad writting'.
    I think you are a narcissist to the extreme...CB might be Mr.Braggart, but he could never beat you. A writer who is too much of himself/herself has nothing to offer to his/her 'audience', as you like to call it. Biggest turn off.
    You can never put down anyone, without going down yourself.

  11. you have a point. i stand corrected. i think his notion that he's tolkien got me more than his writing, which undoubtedly has created a new breed of readers. it hardly matters that i am not one of them.

  12. I had a chance to read this post just today. I have read "One night at the Call centre" by CB after my friend suggested that it was a good read. Again he was pretty new to read English books. He quoted that as "Time Pass" - but what I would say is "Time waster". If a fiction doesn't have strong plot, at least the writing should be strong to grip the readers. But it fails in both aspects. I just can't accept the daft logic of God calling, or fooling the American customers with a virus attack by Microsoft defect. Just because he can't move the plot forward with brilliant twists, he shouldn't have thought that readers are fools as well.

    Only fact that he chose "Call centre" as the plot location attracted the readers and some love story which didn't had spine to withstand the story line.

    I didn't dare to touch his other novels, the reason being, In future if I ever wanted to write a book, I shouldn't set this one as an example..

  13. Awesome article! I read one book, with great difficulty too. No more for me. Tyvm

  14. You had me at "... and think they are literature." :D

  15. you had me at "... and think they are literature." :D