Thursday, July 18, 2013

What Young India Wants by Chetan Bhagat - A Review

"What Young India Wants? Its money back!"

So went a joke on twitter, sent my way by good friend and active tweeter, @tarique_anwer. Essentially, the young India, which had been eagerly waiting for Chetan Bhagat's first non-fiction publication was so disappointed in this flimsy attempt that, instead of these trivial essays, they wanted the ₹140 they spent on this book back. Which young India was awaiting the release of this book, you ask? Well, the one to which I belong was. Rather enthusiastically. There may be several reasons for that - the basic being, I loved Chetan Bhagat from his first through to his last novel. What I definitely did not take into account was the fact that I had never been exposed to his kind of political or social writing, which, defined at best, is average.

There are many things wrong and disappointing about this book. However, since I am a firm believer in silver linings, let me tell you what I loved about it. I loved the thought behind his words. Not the words, just the thoughts and the apparent drive which made him, rather bravely, attempt essays on fields as diverse as social networking, politics, education, gender issues, market economics, psychology and much else. All this vast expanse of topics was, unfortunately, ruthlessly compressed to fit a rather small space. However, before delving into negatives with full force, I would like to point out another thing which I found good - in fact, the only place where I felt any connect with the book. It was the short autobiographical essay which Bhagat has written about himself, recounting his struggles and achievements unabashedly and with minimum pretension. I have a proclivity towards such people, so much so, that Bhagat was almost successful in establishing his credibility as a social-economic-political commentator.

Naive fallacy of a hapless fan. The back-cover extols the book as a collection of Bhagat's 'widely read' columns across newspapers. I don't doubt that his article contributions to leading national dailies had a stable audience, but that is not because he is an expert or an insightful man. That is because he is popular and easy to read. He writes like I might. He connects with the youth (like he claims) because of his passionate discourses, which are rich on emotions, but devoid of substance. I am not being too harsh on the author - because I know I genuinely admire him for the kind of readership revolution he has brought out in urban India. I also relate and associate with the passion he holds for the country that is India - infectious and easily understood. However, when you delve into the finer (or even shallower) points he makes, you will realise he is not saying anything which is innovative, or which may work as an epiphany. Now, writers, especially columnists should mandatorily be of a stature where they stir the brains of readers. What I mean is, that writing should be capable of producing a change.

Nothing changed in me after I read this very gloriously titled book. Except for the fact that I will be wary of Bhagat's books in future. His effort at covering those many topics is commendable, but that is exactly what also works against him. When he takes up issues of such importance, and then wraps them up even before they can grow on you, it seems a nonsensical endeavour. Too little of too much packed together - thats what this book is.

Replete with personal anecdotes, Bhagat does strive to establish a cord, but fails in the larger picture. Another element which is totally frivolous and which harms the credibility of the author to the maximum are the two pieces of short fiction printed after the mini-essays. The stories, if I am too generous, I would say, are okay. The first one still better, but the second one aimlessly searching for reasons to be included in the book. Fiction is Bhagat's domain, and I know for a writer of his calibre, it would not be difficult to create a fictional narrative on an issue of social relevance. In fact, he takes up social issues routinely in his novels. In this book, however, he again disappoints in the area which is known to be his stronghold.

Summary - 2 star on five. There are much better books in the market which deal in a more in-depth and specialised and even interesting manner with the issues Bhagat picks up here. Hunt for those and skip this one.

Book Details -
Author - Chetan Bhagat
Publisher - Rupa
Published - 2012
Book Source - Review Copy
Genre - Non-fiction/Current Affairs/Essays 
Price - Rs. 140
Pages -  181


  1. Once again a goor review. Problem with Chetan Bhagat is not that he is an average author. But, he tries to become expert of all kind.
    If you have not seen the video in which Gukzar sb takes on CB then plz do watch.

    1. Haha! I saw the video, and even though I felt back for Chetan, I felt it was justified.

      Thanks for leaving a comment. You had almost disappeared from my blog!

  2. I have not read the book but yes on twitter it was almost clear how it was not appreciated...

    1. Don't read it. Blogs offer better content than what this book does.

  3. I agree with you, it happens when a writer skips his domain by multiple steps.You may agree with me that Bhagat has diverted many local language readers to English.

    1. To that, I wholeheartedly agree. He has done great service to English novel readership and created an new industry for authors.

  4. Hats off Mr Great Chetan Bhagat. Truly a mind blowing non fictional book. At lest someone is there taking onus to expose what is happening through phenomenal writing skills. Live long Mr Bhagat. Keep doing the same and an earnest advice to not join politics.

    Best Wishes
    Sateesh Kumar Jha

    1. I understand and appreciate your admiration for Mr. Bhagat. May he keep writing great books to enamour all his fans.

      I quite like him myself, but only as far as his dedication to fiction form is concerned.

  5. I guess the last chapter pretty much summed up, what this entire book is all about. You will find it to be cometely different when you ty and compare it with the likes of the other chetan bhagat books. this one doesnt have plots or interesting chapters. this one raises the various conteporary social issues of our nation and the importance of why the youth of this country should have an interest and say in the existing system in order to move the country forward in a positive direction.