Supriya Nair in Mint:
In the pre-release publicity for his first non-fiction book What Young India Wants, Chetan Bhagat answered the title’s implicit question by saying that young Indians, according to him, really wanted a “naukri (job)” and “chokri (girl)”. He claims, though, that it is not paradoxical to assume that a generation intent on personal gratification will also have time to think about the “national issues” on which the essays in this book focus.
His publishers, Rupa & Co., are counting on it. Rupa, which has brought out all of Bhagat’s novels since Five Point Someone in 2004, says that 500,000 copies of an initial print run of 575,000 were sold to retailers in a day, and booksellers have already begun to place repeat orders.
Over the course of his five-novel-old career, Bhagat has been called a youth icon almost more often than he has been called a writer. His new book is a milestone in Bhagat’s four-year quest to justify his status as the voice of the people, through his Sunday column in The Times of India.
“I felt I didn’t deserve this tag,” Bhagat said in an interview on Thursday. “I was just writing stories and doing movie deals. This, I thought, was a new market. I felt I could reach out to young people. And I did feel a lot of things were wrong with the country. Writing this would be more fulfilling.” More:
Leading the Idiocracy
Shougat Dasgupta in Tehelka:
He admits that the success of his fiction, leading to newspaper columns that reach, he writes in the introduction to What Young India Wants, “a combined readership of four crore Indians”, has given him a “disproportionate platform”. “My entry into non-fiction,” he says, between sips of tea, “has been a little preposterous, but so was my entry into fiction.” In his inimitable style, an earnest mix of popular Hinduism and corporate waffle, Bhagat tells me that he is “destiny’s child”, that he wanted to use the opportunities provided to him by destiny to “reflect what Indians think,” to “create change”. He writes in ‘My Journey’, the essay that opens the collection, “I had for years wanted to create more awareness for a better India. Wasn’t now the time to do it with full gusto?”
You cannot accuse Bhagat of lacking gusto. “I measure myself,” he tells me, “in my ability to influence people.” “I do not believe in extreme positions. There is no such thing as ‘I am right’. I believe it’s better to consolidate points of view. My columns are solution-oriented; I always give solutions because that is a more positive approach.” Bhagat is adept at this sort of corporatespeak, bland pabulum that appears to be reasonable, but is buzzword piled upon truism piled upon platitude, a tower built on the soft, tremulous sands of cliché. A Bhagat column makes a house of cards seem as substantial as the pyramid at Giza. More: