New Delhi: He admits he may not be in the same league as the literary greats of India when it comes to fiction, but he has revamped the concept of ‘bestsellers’. This, says novelist Chetan Bhagat, is because his stories are written for Indians.
The 40-year-old was interacting with the alumni and students of the Indian Institute of Technology-Delhi in the first ‘Distinguished Alumni Lecture’ series here Saturday evening.
During the hour-long lecture on ‘From Institute to Bollywood’, the author of the bestseller “Five Point Someone” that was adapted into the blockbuster movie “Three Idiots”, spoke about how by listening to his inner self he embarked on a journey that changed the course of his life.
“When my first novel came in 2004, there was a different literary landscape in India. It was the time when many young people were learning to speak in English for better job prospects,” said Bhagat.
“I know that I am not the best writer in India, but I am the bestselling writer because I write for the people of my country. I write in the language they understand and converse with them through this,” he added.
The entire conversation turned out to be a light-hearted evening for the audience, which applauded, giggled and laughed at Bhagat’s impeccable sense of humour. The audience could associate with Bhagat’s nostalgic references to the culture, the girls’ attitude towards IIT (Indian Institute of Technology) boys and the daring things he did during his stint at the institute.
He advised them to be more adaptive in life because “brilliance is not just enough to survive in this world”.
“You have to realise that adapting is winning. Being smarter or intelligent is not enough in this world. How many times do we see a brilliant man heading a company? Then we look at them and wonder: ‘Our fundas (basics) were better than his, but why aren’t we there?’ So, be more than what you are,” said the author.
Bhagat, in his many interviews, has maintained that he isn’t writing to win literary prizes but is using writing as a tool to teach English and make people read books written in simple English.
Even his latest novel “Half Girlfriend” is the love story of a non-English speaking Bihari boy and a Delhi girl. Through this ‘language divide’, he is not just narrating a tale, but reaching out to mofussil India that aspires to “speak flawless English” to find societal acceptance.
“These days, people are associating language with intelligence and this is creating a social-caste system. I want to stop this elitism,” he said.
“Educated girls don’t want to date a guy who doesn’t speak English and this is what I have tried to bring out in my novel,” he added.
Bhagat said that he wanted every slum dweller in the country to be able to read his books one day.
“I want to change people’s thinking by writing, so that they can elect better. I use my writings, novels and columns to focus on that aspect and hope my message reaches out to a large audience,” he concluded.