Recently, I was involved in a discussion in a writer’s group about Chetan Bhagat. Unlike most similar discussions, this one did not degenerate into the vitriol that usually happens when Chetan Bhagat is mentioned. In part, because the discussion was not limited to Bhagat himself, but included Amish Tripathi, Durjoy Datta, Ravi Subramanian, and other bestsellers. It was a genuine attempt to understand why their readers read these bestsellers. So, let me explain why I read Chetan Bhagat and why I think others do, too.

How an American editor became a fan of India’s bestselling writer

I am an American who lived in Mumbai for three years. I hold a BA and MA in History from Clemson University and completed two years of Ph.D. coursework at Brown University, the most liberal of the Ivy League schools. I am a technical editor and well outside the age of Bhagat’s core demographic. I represent the liberal cultural elite that usually hates Chetan Bhagat, but I don’t.

Truthfully, the books are hit and miss for me; I prefer the columns. I like that he breaks down a major issue into manageable pieces and is willing to consider all sides. His haters label him a bhakt, but that’s inaccurate. When I moved to India and tried to understand Indian politics, his columns helped me tremendously. As a writer, I owe an intellectual debt to Chetan Bhagat. The stories I’m writing come from a deep love for Indian politics, and that love derives in part from him. But, I promise that I’m not writing yet another IIT love story. It’s the politics I love, and the politics I write.

Only after reading his columns did I read Chetan Bhagat’s books. I started with Two States—considered his best and my personal favorite—followed by What Young India Wants. Then, I was hit full force with the marketing mayhem of the Half Girlfriend launch. I had never seen anything like it. By the time that book released, I was amazed by the sheer genius of his marketing prowess—a prowess that even his most hateful detractors acknowledge. That amazement might have colored my review slightly. OK more than slightly.

Then, I saw him at the Sharjah International Book Fair in Dubai where he gave a presentation called Changing the Game. I sat in an auditorium filled beyond its capacity and watched a writer give a presentation that I would expect from a CEO. As I watched him lay out how he had conquered India’s book market, I realized that he didn’t really see himself as a writer. That’s one reason why he succeeds where others fail. He sees his competition as Candy Crush, not other writers. Because he isn’t only a writer. He’s an entertainer.

Why critics are so hard on Chetan Bhagat’s “crap” writing

Most of the criticism of Bhagat’s writing revolves around his grammar and style. Even as a fan, I agree that his writing has cringe-inducing malapropisms and misplaced metaphors. For example, Five Point Someone contains this dubious sentence:

I felt crap.

Some readers will object to the use of the word “crap” in a literary form as esteemed as a novel. They consider such usage crass and low. That’s a fair critique, but let’s not forget critics leveled those same charges against Saadat Hasan Manto, who’s considered the father of the modern Indian short story. History may be kinder to Bhagat than he has been to historians. As tastes change, opinions of him might change, too.

From a technical standpoint, however, unless Hari was actually touching crap, which he was not, the sentence is wrong. The proper sentence should read “I felt like crap” or “I felt crappy.” But, technical issues aside, sentences like this one work—yes, I said work—because the audience understands them and relates to them. That’s a key part of his magic: his ability to connect to his audience through language. No, I’m not kidding. I can’t believe I just typed that either, but that’s the key. The very thing for which he is vilified is Bhagat’s strength: his use of language. That “crap” line is why he succeeds. For many of his readers are not native English speakers, and that is exactly how they would phrase the same sentence. That’s part of how he connects. They hear themselves in his dialogue, see themselves in his characters—and most importantly feel that he’s one of them. At JLF, Ravi Subramanian said no one can teach you how to tell the story. He’s right. And, no one can teach you how to connect to your audience. You either do or you don’t. Bhagat does. Beautifully.

Moreover, for these readers, “I felt crap” is an easier sentence to understand than “I felt like crap.” The “like” makes it a simile, and that’s a tougher literary concept than the direct object usage. “I felt crap” gets the point across without confusing the inexperienced English reader. But, sentences like this one infuriate those who speak and read English at a native level. Even I responded negatively to this sentence and might have suggested his editor should be slapped. But, as an editor myself, I do understand why that choice might have been made.

In an interview with TOI’s Twitter followers, this question was asked:

Do you keep the ‘Reader’ in mind while writing?

His answer:

Not really. When I am writing, I have to like the story and am in tune with the characters. That’s all.

But, notice he didn’t say that he doesn’t keep the reader in mind during the editing process. I strongly suspect that’s exactly what his editor is tasked with: making the story appeal to the broadest readership possible. So, I felt crap. Oh well. Let’s move on, shall we?


Stop hammering away at this so-called weakness and accept that no amount of shouting on your part is going to change that part of how Chetan Bhagat or anyone else writes. India has bigger problems than Chetan Bhagat.

Go solve one of those.

If his readers want to read his books, then let them do so in peace. I certainly hope and would encourage them to move on to bigger and better books, but I’m really OK with his readers cutting their literary eye teeth on him and developing a love for reading. Literacy is a big problem in India and improving it is the solution to many others. These books are Bhagat’s solution.

What’s yours?


I want to know what your solution is. Post your solution in the comments for this blog. Go ahead. You want to make India awesome? Tell me how. Don’t worry. I won’t judge your grammar. I just want to read your ideas.

Oops. I digressed into a rant there.

Why Bhagat’s readers love him

Let’s get back on track and talk about Bhagat’s readership. Bhagat’s audience is young. More than half of Indians are under the age of 30. That’s the population demographic he caters to. These young, mostly urban kids want to go to IIT, but will most likely settle for a local college. While they’re in college, they will begin reading books for pleasure, and they will start with Bhagat’s books for several reasons.

First, because they are short and simple. They read these books in between studying differential equations and solving engineering problems; these books offer them a much needed, well deserved break from their textbooks.

Second, because they love a good love story. In a country where arranged marriages are still the norm, Bhagat’s love stories give these kids hope that they too can convince their parents to accept their lover from another community. That’s also one reason why he has so many copycats.

Third, because they want comfort. Like most Indians, these kids love Maggi noodles (India’s answer to Top Ramen).  Maggi is cheap, quick, and tasty. The nutritional value is questionable, but you can’t help but crave it anyway. That’s Chetan Bhagat. He’s literary Maggi noodles, and these kids love him for it. There’s nothing wrong with Maggi noodles. I love Maggi noodles. When I was served Maggi for breakfast one morning while visiting Mumbai, I was thrilled. The problem with Maggi—and often the problem with Bhagat—is that it fills you up fast, but you’re soon hungry again. You need to add vegetables or a meat to make the meal satisfying. Therein lies the frustration his fans feel when the story is the same over and over again. Sure, you can eat different flavors of Maggi, but if you don’t add a little something—in Bhagat’s case, a new approach, plot, or ending—the readers walk away unsatisfied.

One key to Bhagat’s success is the evergreen nature of his core demographic. As long as the population stays young, he will have an evergreen source of readers. Some of my friends have told me they read his earlier books, but then stopped. They were no longer satisfied with the IIT love stories. They grew up and aged out of his demographic, and as they did, they abandoned him. Right now, that abandonment doesn’t reflect in his sales figures (he was still number one on Flipkart in 2015), but as the Indian population ages, Bhagat will see more and more of his readers looking for greener, more sophisticated reading pastures elsewhere.

Being the astute marketer and former investment banker that he is, Bhagat has started to diversify his entertainment holdings. First, he moved into film, turning his books into movies. Then, in 2014, he co-wrote Kick, a film that had no basis in his brand.

Here’s an unnecessary music video for Jumme ki Raat from Kick.


But, then, Bhagat decided to diversify further and moved into television as a judge on Nach Baliye, and that’s when the real hating began—and it was brutal.

Why the Internet loves to hate Chetan Bhagat

Then, there’s Twitter. That bastion of well thought-out and succinctly reasoned intellectual discourse about serious issues.

Can you sense the sarcasm in that sentence?

Maybe yes. Maybe no.

And, that’s part of the problem with Bhagat on that platform. He tells jokes, and they fall flat. Sometimes because they just aren’t funny, and sometimes because they hit too close to a sensitive topic, like the Partition one did.

For Bhagat, Twitter is a marketing tool—one that keeps his name in the public view. Twitter suits his writing style. He can be timely, relevant, and engaged on social media. Although, in truth, he engages with fans less than other writers, he still maintains a consistent presence. Occasionally, he mouths off and gets trolled. That trolling feeds his popularity on social media, and the vicious cycle of love/hate ensues.

The risk for Bhagat on this platform is that people cite his tweets as a reason for not reading him. His politics aren’t well liked. He’s politically conservative and tended to support the BJP’s bid during the 2014 election. Moreover, he has often defended the BJP since it became the ruling party. Many people call him a BJP bhakt, but miss the point. They think his pithy tweets meant to increase engagement and push people to talk about uncomfortable issues are the extent of his thought.

They don’t read his columns that reflect his more nuanced views. Even though I felt his recent column on the 2016 budget was a convenient dodge of the bigger Kanhaiya Kumar nationalist/anti-nationalist debate, he did offer serious criticism of the budget’s primary failures. He even called it a lackluster UPA budget. Harsh criticism from a man who echoed the BJP’s development rhetoric during the election. Yet, the social media reach of that column was small compared to his columns on Free Basics or the Anatomy of an Internet troll. Why? Because, ironically enough, economics doesn’t trend. Yet, Bhagat writes his strongest columns when speaking as an economist and marketer. That’s why I read him; that’s why I’m a fan.

There. I said it.

My name is Jean, and I’m Chetan Bhagat fan.

44 Responses

  1. Nice post. If I was a CB-hater, I’d be forced to introspect my views about him. Hope it works for at least some of the haters. A solution to India’s literacy can be to recreate Indian epics as fantasies. Fantasy is a genre that has hooked youngsters from all over the world. India’s mythological epics and stories are the perfect raw material for fantasy writers. If they are converted into fantasy books, it will serve a dual purpose of popularising the epics among the youth and creating an option to CB-type books.

    1. I don’t know if I will convert a hater, but just wanted to put another narrative out there.
      About writing myths: I think that’s a lot of what Amish is doing with his books. Bringing those characters to life helps further both aims.
      Fantasy can be hard to read because it’s often written at a high level. But he pulls it down where people can reach it.

  2. A large part of the anger comes, I think, from the fact that the readers, who cut their teeth on Bhagat, see fit to trash what could be considered much better written tales based on the ‘Bhagat Standard’ 🙂 To feel angry WITH Bhagat for that is juvenile and to feel angry at those readers is useless 🙂 If someone will ONLY eat Maggi – and deride more nutritious food, what’s the point feeling angry with him, unless he is your son or something? 🙂 AND why react with idiotic statements about why people should NOT like Maggi – which is to be too stupid to understand what Maggi actually does provide to the consumer? 🙂

    1. Ah. Yes, the copycats are part of the problem. I would not advocate everyone follow his standard at all. But that’s what happened. He sold, and then publishers found more like him. Anger toward him for that makes no sense. He has no control over it. That’s why I don’t think bringing him into another writer’s review is fair.
      For some people, Maggi is all they can afford. That’s one thing he did. Bring prices down. His books sell in part because they are cheap like Maggi.

  3. I have always maintained everything you said in your post. And as someone who hopes to appeal to the same demographic as CB (24-35) it is an amazing lesson in marketing, anesthetics and treating publishing as what it really is – – a business like exactly every other.

      1. I keep saying it is and no one wants to believe me. Lol. But anyway really great analysis. If I may, just add one point of contention here: When you say most people begin by reading CB and it is his solution to solving India’s literacy.. The way I see it, he has done exactly two things: Spawned a slew of similar literally Maggis that do not inform or add to literature or the larger Indian culture (literature comprising good grammar and syntax, plot and structure and culture comprising only IITians who fall in love in local colleges like heroes and heroines of 90s movies) and readers who never graduate to reading Rushdie. But it does the thing it is supposed to do. It sells his books 🙂

      2. That is too true about the Maggis. I could do a whole blog just on them. Unfortunately, I think you might be right that many don’t graduate up. That would actually be an interesting study to know if that has happened. His readers do often abandon him after a couple books, but are they moving up or just across? Do they move on to Amish or Subramanian but not to more literary tastes like Rushdie?
        But also when I talk about literacy I don’t necessarily mean literature. You can be literate and not read for pleasure. I think he helps them gain a facility in English that helps with employment, but do they hone that facility? I’m not so sure.

      3. I am not too sure saying I feel crap in front of your boss helps with employment skills. Employers look for potentials with proper communication skills and that does include passable grammar. Again, just saying. Also, apologies to hijacking the thread. Have a great day and I look forward to reading more insights from you 🙂

  4. I’m belong to ‘CB hater’ group . Yes, I do agree that his columns are way better than his book. My only argument is this – Simple writing can also be grammatically correct. RK Narayan would be the best example. His stories of course won’t really connect with people who haven’t inculcated reading habit. I’m sure that the kind of stories that Chetan can also be written without grammatical gaffes.

    For argument’s sake, let’s compare him with his peer group of Indian writers, say Ravi Subramaniam. His latest was a romantic thriller and it really didn’t have phrases like ‘I felt crap’. I also felt that the writing was quite relevant and was akin to what you called as comfort food.

    The biggest problem in my humble opinion with some Indian writers as such is that, they tend to think out the story in their native language and pen it down in English. Chetan’s works of fiction has all traits of a story thought out in a different language. English is not our native language, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t respect it and attempt to follows it’s rules.

    I’m not judging him for co-writing a movie or his tweets or his participation in the dance show. I don’t hate the man, I have no reason to. He is just a fellow human. I hate his works of fiction for reasons I elaborated above.

    ps. I know my English isn’t stellar either. At least I attempt to improve unlike certain people.

    1. Hi Shree. The comparison to Subramanian is apt. I think part of that difference is they’re writing to different audiences. Subramanian’s characters work in banks and talk like bankers. Chetan’s characters talk like teenagers because that’s what they are.
      However, your point to Narayan is also well made. I love Narayan. He is an example of well written but simple prose. I do wish Bhagat would take a few pointers from him.
      Your point about the translation into English is really interesting. There is some of that. Where the constructions read like Hindi. That’s something I’ve seen discussed recently in writing groups is how to communicate that act of translation.

  5. Interesting insight and analysis, Jean.
    I have learnt not to hate anyone, its detrimental to one’s health 😀 Jokes apart, I loved his Two States, but I am not the right reader for his other books. IMHO people don’t realize this, but I think they hate his intelligence and success.

  6. You pulled a Bhagatesque tactic with your line “I am a Chetan Bhagat fan”! The qualifying statement being: “Bhagat writes his strongest columns when speaking as an economist and marketer.” Nicely done. 🙂

  7. I loved Five Point Someone, then loved One Night at call Center, Then again liked Revolution 2020, specifically for the reasons you have stated above. I am an engineering graduate, you see, and now I too in one of the IITs. But after that I read Coma by Robin Cook, then A Thousand Splendid Suns amazed me. By then I got what was a better literature. Then, I read EM Forster and George Orwell and after reading Joyce, I knew what was I missing. It was then I disliked CB’s writing and I felt Hosseini is over-hyped. Now, here I am, commenting on a blogpost, having dislike about most of the popular writers of India. All I can say now is that, Literature is not at the mercy of marketing and the writer of our discussion, never was. Stating that, as a lover of literature, I can never approve of Chetan’s writing in the same way I don’t approve Dan Brown’s or EL James’ writing.

  8. I loved Five Point Someone, then loved One Night at call Center, Then again liked Revolution 2020, specifically for the reasons you have stated above. I am an engineering graduate, you see, and now I too in one of the IITs. But after that I read Coma by Robin Cook, then A Thousand Splendid Suns amazed me. By then I got what was a better literature. Then, I read EM Forster and George Orwell and after reading Joyce, I knew what was I missing. It was then I disliked CB’s writing and I felt Hosseini is over-hyped. Now, here I am, commenting on a blogpost, having dislike most of the popular writers of India. All I can say now is that, “Literature is not at the mercy of marketing and the writer of our discussion, never was”. Stating that, as a lover of literature, I can never approve Chetan’s writing in the same way I don’t approve Dan Brown’s or EL James’ writing.

  9. Jean, I like the way you approached this post on what makes CB click in India. While I hate his newspaper columns on critical issues, there is no denying that he reached out to the Indian masses, read the young generation, with love stories to connect. Like Nokia tagline, it’s all about connecting people..young generation writing in English or Hinglish. It’s pure entertainment at its best. He is marketing savy like Shah Rukh Khan. I won’t deny that I love reading romcom that his ilk writes. The short romance stories on my blog is borrowed by the CB and the likes.

  10. Your extremely well analyzed reiterated something I had always doubted, but could never say for sure, and I thank you for penning this. I am now emboldened to confess something I might have never had otherwise…

    I have never hated Chetan Bhagat. Because you cannot hate someone you want to be like! What I have hated are his fans, for I want them to one day love my writing as well. My hate stems from the per-conceived notion that my writing is more literary (its something that comes naturally to me) and would have ideally done better with native English speakers.

    I am currently working on my debut novel – its expected to release this July, and would love to know what a fan of Chetan Bhagat like you think about it. Do let me know if it would be possible for you to read and review it. Will consider it my privilege, actually!

    P.S: I have enjoyed Bhagat’s Five Pint Someone and 2 States. I did my schooling from an Irish Convent in Calcutta before going onto pursue Engineering from Bangalore. I have over a decade of experience across top IT organizations, and cannot wait to turn my passion into a full time career someday!

      1. I have done all of that (Technical Writing, Communication, Marketing & Branding, Instructional Design, etc). I have been published 8 times so far, but mostly in short story anthologies, and as a part of India’s first Composite Novel and have also made it to Amazon Bestseller Lists. All geared up for my debut novel now. Hope it finds and charms its readers! Thanks for the note of appreciation 🙂

      2. Oh. You’re in Crossed and Knotted? I haven’t read it yet. Looking forward to it, but it’s far down my read pile that the moment.
        Good luck with everything. Truly.

  11. You know the way you have written this article, it clearly depicts Chetan Bhagat’s style. I love his newspaper columns. They’re straight, sorted, rational and to the point. More than his books,it’s his columns they interest me more… and the write up above, is exactly on the same line. To the point, no pointless blabbering, rational and makes a lot of sense..

    It was a pleasure reading your work Jean 🙂


  12. Chetan is ten times a writer when he writes columns on social/political/economic issues. Otherwise he entertains his audience.

  13. Hi, Jean! This post has been an interesting read, and there are some thoughts I’d like to share in response. I’d like to clarify that I have no strong feelings whatsoever regarding Mr. Bhagat, but I have strong opinions regarding his work, which I’ve unfortunately wasted my time reading. (I’ve read both his works of fiction as well as his columns, but I’ve recently been avoiding his tweets as I consider them to be in bad taste. I’m one of the most liberal people you’ll meet, but i consider there’s a difference between an educated opinion and uneducated rhetoric.)

    A little background information might be useful here. Unlike the majority of his readers, whom you astutely point out aren’t native English speakers, I consider English to be the language I’m most comfortable with. I’m part of the new generation of Indians for whom English is a way of life – I think, dream and talk in the language. I’m far more comfortable with the language than the average Indian. Am I to be vilified for this, and derided as embracing a ‘foreign’ language? I’ll leave that to your discretion to decide – let’s not get sidetracked here. 🙂 (I’d also like to quickly point out that the word ‘odyssey’ has been used incorrectly here.)

    Now, to come to the finer points of your article. I was initially curious to see how you’d be defending your stance. Your article is titled ‘I’m a Chetan Bhagat fan, and I am not an idiot.’ However, I don’t see any defence of that stance from your side. You’ve stated that you’re a Chetan Bhagat fan, and that comes across very clearly, but you’ve only stated that you’re not an idiot. I didn’t see anything to substantiate that. Please keep in mind that I don’t have any personal vendetta against Bhagat fans. In an assertion like that, however, there needs to be better substantiation.

    I agree that lazy reading is better than no reading at all. However, the trouble with lazy reading is that by its very nature, it discourages people from moving ahead. I grew up reading, and I read a variety of literature in many languages. As a result, I don’t understand what someone who picks up Bhagat as their first read in college would experience. I have no problems with people picking up Bhagat as their first read (although I do wonder what happened to the generation that was supposedly raised on the Harry Potter series – which would coincide with the generation you’ve highlighted, who apparently haven’t read anything until college!) I do, however, have problems with people who think Bhagat is an amazing writer and don’t have time for actual worthwhile writing. It’s not the ‘love stories’ or the ‘IIT setting’ that I consider less worthwhile. It’s the way they’re portrayed, and the way they afford no opportunity for someone to learn more. There are better IIT love stories out there. There are better IIT stories, and certainly much better love stories, out there. Why aren’t people reading this? It’s because they’re too caught up in the latest pulp that Bhagat calls a novel.

    I’m not asking anyone to read the ‘big, important’ books. I’m not going to shove Booker or Hugo winners into anyone’s hands (I like undiscovered genii and as a result, I spend most of my time and money on the ‘indie’ books as opposed to the ones that achieve greater commercial success). At the end of the day, all I want from a book is a story that I enjoy, written (and edited) competently, and leads me to another discovery. Reading is, primarily, a form of gaining knowledge. As a result, I read to learn. However, I learn nothing from 2 States – except that cultures can be reduced to simplistic caricatures. And, of course, that tasteless regional jokes and stereotypes are in vogue.

    I’m willing to give Bhagat a bit of a pass on the issue of grammar, as he’s the author, not the editor. However, the final version of his books only goes to show the incompetency of his editors. Your argument that a sentence like ‘I feel crap’ would be more relatable than ‘I feel like crap’ is one that has been used before (therefore, i reiterate my point that I see nothing new in your arguments). I have several problems with that argument. Firstly, I consider it shocking that the average Indian *who’s learning English* would be unable to understand a simile. (The misuse of ‘literally’ is perhaps one of the greatest tragedies to occur to the English language.) Your argument is inapplicable to someone who doesn’t know the language. However, for someone who claims to know English… how do you claim to know the language if you can’t spot basic grammatical errors, logical inconsistencies and structural fallacies? You don’t need to know a term like ‘infinitive’ to understand its meaning.

    Your argument basically claims that it’s okay for Bhagat’s readers to be satisfied with incorrect usage of grammar. And then people wonder why his readers don’t move on to better writers, and why people can’t understand them! You praise Bhagat’s lazy writing, but then you go on to wonder why lazy readers don’t pick themselves up when Bhagat gives them no incentive to do so! This does not an intellectual, knowledge individual make.

    Secondly, you claim that there’s a connection between literacy and Bhagat. I wonder how many people use Bhagat to teach the alphabet in primary school. This might perhaps only be a case of inadvertent word choice, and so I won’t spend too much time here.

    Thirdly, you claim that this resonates with young people. You consider this excellent. I consider it a tragedy. Bhagat’s books contribute to a culture that a) demeans intellectualism and leaves us all that much more poorer for it, and b) continues to serve its own inflated sense of self-importance, which precludes the possibility of growth through expanding knowledge of diversity. I respect his right to his opinions, and not his opinions themselves. Is this the sort of ‘resonance’ that ought to be the *primary* driving force for a new class of leaders? Would you not want them to be better educated?

    People consider Bhagat to be a messiah for the fact that he connected with the masses. This shows that you’re willing to overlook his flaws for something that he supposedly did for the greater good – however, his stories don’t serve the greater good, for the reasons I outlined in the paragraph above. It’s not enough for the masses to be ‘connected’. What sort of connection are we talking about? The idea is not to mindlessly consume, but to retain information. The idea is to be moved, thrilled, shocked, satisfied, dissatisfied, happy, sad, loved, and so much more. Chetan Bhagat’s novels may fill a void, but it does so in such a tasteless, haphazard manner that I’d rather he hadn’t done so at all, for now he’s locked his readers in that void and made sure they’ll never be able to come out.

    You challenged your readers to come up with alternatives to Bhagat. This is an extremely silly and futile effort and does nothing to advance your argument. Are you really claiming that Bhagat is the only option we, as the youth, have today? Are you telling me that it’s Bhagat, or nothing? Anyone who’s cursorily read at some point in their lives – or, at least, had their ears open – can name excellent authors right off the bat. Let’s consider your case of someone who arrives at college having never read a book in their lives (how sad! Also, how did they pass 12th grade English, which requires you to read a classic novel as part of the course?) I pity such a person at the outset. But, if pressed for recommendations, I’d have no problem naming a whole host of authors. There are classics, like Agatha Christie (simplistic, but so well-written), J.R.R. Tolkien, Arthur Conan Doyle, Rowling, Saki, O’Henry, R.K. Narayan, Jerome K Jerome, Jeffery Archer, George R.R. Martin, Suzanne Collins, Khaled Hosseini (excepting ‘And the Mountains Echoed’), Kipling, VIkram Seth, Mario Puzo, Ruskin Bond, Satyajit Ray (his Feluda stories are so well-written, and exceedingly simple!), Samit Basu, Charles and Mary Lamb’s abridged Shakespeare, Amitav Ghosh, Khushwant Singh… the list is endless, and the authors I’ve mentioned are easily recognizable. These are just the commercially successful ones alone! It’s a pity that so many Bhagat readers consider him to be their only option.

    I hope you’ll go through this thread, as well – There are excellent answers that go into far greater depth than I have.

    Once again, I respect your choices. However, I have a problem when people seek to defend themselves when already standing on such a tenuous position.

    Thanks for reading this long response! 🙂

    1. Thanks for taking the time to write it. I appreciate your views. They are well argued and valid criticisms.
      The 2001-word odyssey was a pun reference to the Stanley Kubrick film.

  14. I’ve only read one of his books… the one that was made into the movie “3 Idiots”. Now, I’m an old guy, who lived and loved ( and married ) my college girlfriend. So the appeal of the college romance has more or less worn thin. I graduated from university more than 30 years ago in India. Clearly, I’m unlikely to be titillated by the idea of “girl friend” and “boy friend”. I can see, though, how much of the younger population of India would be.

    I’m sure things have changed a lot since my days in college. There is a lot more freedom now, more options for hanging out. In my time there was a coffee shop called Flury’s ( expensive for poor college goers like me), the cinema, or the trees in Victoria Memorial or the Lakes. ( I’m not kidding here … ) I was lucky that I had a private study in my house and parents who didn’t worry about the time my girl friend spent with me ( or vice versa ).

    That’s the social side of the story.

    Is Chetan Bhagat writing in English or Indlish ? I would say, based on the book that I read and the excerpts that have been posted, that he is definitely writing in Indlish. Should we then judge him by the standards of English writing?

    I have never heard him speak and I’m sure he is an intelligent man. I have read some of his tweets. Clearly, one thing he is not, is “humorist”.

    I have no data on whether his readers progress to bigger and better authors. If, that is, for the sake of argument, we COULD define “better”. It’s like the question my kids used to ask me “Which is better, Dad, a BMW or a pick up truck?”

    Based on my discussions with writers / readers on Facebook, writer groups and blogs, I have the following observations.

    1. Not everyone wants to improve.
    2. Not everyone believes they need to improve.
    3. Indian readers seem to sublimate the plot over the language.
    4. Pith wins over substance.

    There is a place for Chetan Bhagat and a place for his copy-cats in the larger set of “authors”. Does he deserve a place on a shelf in ones library? That’s a personal choice people have to make for themselves.

    1. Thanks for the comment. Number 3 is one reason why he succeeds, but even he has his weaknesses there. He is by no means a perfect writer. The data on literacy would be interesting.

  15. I haven’t read something as interesting and true as this in a while.
    I found this post relevant to an extent. It’s true that there are more CB haters than there are those who love his work. But one can’t ignore the fact that even after so much criticism, his books sell good.
    Take his latest book, Gumrah, I was so dissapointed about him launching a book which probably no one might want to buy, especially after the serial Gumrah, it is based on. But still, it did good in Indian Market.
    Maybe that’s the main thing about Writing and Marketing, once people start loving your writing and your work, they would read literally anything from you. Cause they feel relatable.
    I always thought the key to a good book are the Visuary Writing Skills, whether it gives wings to a reader’s imagination. But after reading this, I have a whole new opinion. The Key is relatability. People read if they feel relatable to your work. Perhaps, That’s the exact reason people read CB.

      1. Pardon me. Just read it was ‘launched’ by Bhagat. And the author was Ira Trivedi.

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