An open letter to Chetan Bhagat

Sunday, 10 August 2014 - 6:35am IST | Place: Mumbai | Agency: dna

Following the furore over the promotional muscle used to announced Chetan Bhagat's newest book, ' Half Girlfriend' Malavika Sangghvi writes him a letter

Dear Chetan Bhagat,

Ever since the announcement of your new book 'Half Girlfriend' appeared on the front page of a leading daily you have become the favourite whipping boy of the chatterati.

Your writing has been criticized for its half-assed simplicity and lack of depth; your appearances in public have elicited half-hearted praise and the views expressed in your columns have been singled out for being half-baked, or even half assed!

Let me tell you Mr Bhagat, given half a chance, your critics would love to have the same advances that publishers give you, the same rapport with the readers you enjoy and the same freedom to live the life of an author, without worrying about the financial implications that usually come with the choice of a writer's life.

The reason your critics are half-hearted in their enthusiasm for you is for another matter altogether: and that is because Mr Bhagat, you stand for every thing that the pundits and gurus have feared: some one from outside their liberal arts, left-leaning, citadels of learning and literature, who has had the audacity to enter without being invited—and then to lord it over them as if you owned the place!

The fact that you attended the two elite educational institutions of this country, IIT and IIM does not make it easier for you either Mr Bhagat.

In the mental silos that the elite of India have created for how they run things, people from IIT and IIM are not supposed to be best-selling authors. They are the numbers men, supposed to start and own software companies, run banks or sell shampoos in multinationals.

For long the intellectual elite of this country have regarded these people as necessary and worthy, but not exactly objects of glory. " They earn a lot of money" is what the intellectuals of this country believe privately. " But they don't have our literary and cultural smarts. We are the ones who suffer in garrets and attics and pay the price for our genius."

Looked at in historical terms Mr Bhagat, the hostility towards you emanates from a subtle caste system, as offensive as India's traditional one and just as insidious: the caste system that exists between men of learning and men of trade.

You, in the eyes of an older India were not supposed to write books; that went on to be so successful; that too in English!

For an older India, Mr Bhagat, your success is a red rag in the face of their long held fears and hard held beliefs and you Mr Bhagat are the proverbial bull in the china shop.

But you know what Mr Bhagat? I regard your arrival on the scene, your breaking down the walls and unspoken barriers that have held India's young people back as the heralding of a welcome new change in this country.
I may not be your most enthusiastic reader, but that young people are reading at all, that an author can make money and be feted and rewarded and be given huge advances and that books are now being sold like shampoos and cars and that we spend so much time discussing them, (even those with names like ' Half Girlfriend') is half the battle won in our long climb to a new and shining India where every one has the opportunity to be whatever he dreams of and works towards!

Carry on Mr Bhagat, and as for your new title, it's not half bad either!

Yours sincerely, etc

Malavika Sangghvi

The writer believes in the art of letter writing

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