Saturday, September 6, 2014

Criticism - An Indian's birth right?

Disclaimer: This is a guest post and the author of this post is not promoting or demoting any brand or writer. 

The Intellectual

ə in¦tel|lec¦tual/

1. A person with a dislike for anything related to mainstream Bollywood, be it actors or the script or the book that follows such a story or the person who loves such a story or the dog that craps such a story or the cow that moos such a story or so on; the funnier one can be while showing hate, the more intellectual he is <see what I did there>.

2. A person who compares, verbally or non-verbally, every work of fiction with Breaking Bad or Game of Thrones, thereby establishing that he is an ardent follower of IMDb 9+ works and hence, an intellectual.

3. A person who blindly follows the trend set by person described in 1 or/and 2.
Credits – The Cool Indian Lexicon.

Chetan Bhagat's announcement of his new novel, Half Girlfriend, due to release in early October of this year, opened an unprecedented tirade of Bhagat-Bashing on forums. While his devoted audience (yes, there is one) is waiting and pre-ordering his latest novella, self-proclaimed literary know-it-alls have taken the onus upon themselves to use forums like Quora and Facebook to declare how incompetent Chetan Bhagat is at the noble art of writing.

Bhagat-Bashing is the new fad among the novel reading population of the country. Here I attempt to refute some of the common accusations aimed at the author.

Accusation #1Dude doesn't even know English.
Counter – Well, if that is true, then the dude certainly knows how to hoodwink arguably the best B-school in the country into admitting him in its most sought-after course, a school
that focuses a lot on one's English proficiency as an admission criteria. Not only that,
he secured a job in a global bank in campus placements. I bet that that wouldn't have
happened had he not used near-perfect English during his interview.

Accusation #2He is a bad writer.
CounterAu contraire, he is a good writer! It just so happens that the genre he writes in isn't up to your taste, which is neither yours nor the writer's fault. Yes, there are some
grammatical mistakes in his books and yes, the language used is quite trivial. But that
is exactly how he wants and intends to write. This serves the primary purpose of a
novel – he connects with his target audience who speak the exact same language with
the exact same grammatical mistakes.                                               

Accusation #3He is a disgrace to the glorious history of Indian literature.
Counter – Nobody has an obligation to follow in anyone's footsteps, especially in a democratic country with a constitutionally declared freedom of the written and spoken word. With due respect to the Indian literary legends, Bhagat isn't wrong in trying to carve out his own niche.
It is important to note here that what he did was try. It was the Indian audience that rewarded his attempt with massive book sales. Of course, a couple or more courses of marketing at IIM-A don't go amiss in boosting your sales.

Accusation #4Too much sex and vulgar words in his books.
Counter – Indian engineering students are one of the most horny bunch of people you can find. Sex is what comprises most of our alcohol-induced talk and those vulgar words are finding increased use in our vocabulary. If anything, that language lends a bit of authenticity to his characters.

Accusation #5He is wannabe youth icon.
Counter – Actually, no. He is as much a youth icon as Obama a Nobel Peace Prize winner. It is up to the youth to selectively take out the positives from his work and life. I'd like to mention that the above accusation was made anonymously on Quora.
Yeah, way to show your own character, mate. Comment on the authenticity of a guy who made it to the Times 100 most Influential People in the World (yes, world not India) while not having the guts to reveal your own identity.

I read in a recent interview that he once bunked classes to see Maine Pyaar Kiya (yup, you read that right). Clearly, he loves cheesy Bollywood scripts. There's nothing wrong about it, he is entitled to his likes and dislikes.

When he grew tired of predicting world markets for rich customers, he turned to his buried dream of writing. The idea was to write what he loved and earn money with it. And boy, have his coffers swelled or what!!

It is easy to become a critic, it’s harder to stay still and think about your critique. And criticizing a famous personality gives a rush of self-importance that makes one believe his or her opinion matters. It does matter, but the opinion has to be backed by seasoned logic and not made without thought or by jumping on the bandwagon.

Another issue is that these critics have made it their hobby to demean someone who is open about liking such books or movies. Showing a haughty sardonic expression to someone who is reading a Chetan Bhagat apparently gives these Rand-readers the satisfaction that they read 'better' books and thus are more literate. Write a book of your own then.

It is a (mis-)conception that Bhagat's stories are followed by lesser mortals like stupid teenage couples of low-tier colleges, villagers et al. Yes, that populace does take more interest in these larger than life mushy stories. Does that demean them? Hell, No. Does that demean the author? Hell, No. 

But this is not to say that there doesn't exist any problem.

It is stupid and extremely so to believe that the plotlines described in such books and movies can actually happen in real life. Fans sometimes start relating their own life events with the scenes in the book/script and take their decisions based on the events described by the writer. It is still not the writer's fault; it’s the responsibility of the public to keep their wits about them. Always.
For example, he has repeatedly said that Five Point Someone is not based on his life and yet, the combination of weed and Pink Floyd is the definition of IIT-cool, especially among the newbie minds of naive freshers.

I will end this post by giving an example of what I believe to be Bhagat's biggest accomplishment.
During the final year at college, a friend approached me about building a reading habit to improve his English proficiency. I had a noticeable stack of mystery novels in my room, something that is a rare feature of engineering college hostel rooms.
Now, this guy had never picked a novel in his life and the only thing he had read in English were school textbooks. I had a couple of Chetan Bhagats compressed for breath amongst the bulkier Dan Browns, Sam Bournes and Sidney Sheldons.
What should I have given him as a starter for a reading habit? A book that has complex plotlines from the Prologue itself or a Bhagat book that contains the daily vocab of a regular guy? If Bhagat's books can help people imbibe a reading habit, I think he deserves some respect instead of misfired criticism.

I am not a fan of Chetan Bhagat's. Sometimes, his words connect with me, but mostly, they don't. But I recognize the fact that that this does not take anything away from his talents. It just means we walk different roads. Sadly, most people in the country are of the opinion - If something is not walking on their road, it must be trash, What’s worse, even more people just want to be perceived as walking that seemingly devoid of trash road and just jump on the next hip bandwagon.

Consider this-
Chetan Bhagat's tweet on Manmohan Singh:
"I know a PhD who remains absolutely silent when the country needs his ideas and reforms the most.”

A reply by a random teenager:
“I know an IITian who writes self-flaunting, affair-obsessed, stupid desi novels instead of contributing to his country's engineering innovations."

I have chosen this particular reply because it was in turn, re-tweeted by many others, thereby showing that an alarming number of people share his opinions and call this reply 'iconic'.

Now, if this teenager had a logical perspective, he would have realized that if the scales are not balanced, there is a chance of inferences being skewed. There are over a hundred thousand IITians roaming his planet at a given time. There is just one Indian Prime Minister at a given moment.
Moreover, what, if anything, an array of PMs has taught us is that if you are not up to the job, better not take up the responsibility. Clearly, CB was one of those many many high school pass outs who entered IIT solely because it is a socially respectable thing and not because he loved engineering. And he chose IIM after that because becoming an IIT-IIM product is the most secure Indian way possible to ensure a steady solid income for most part of your life, which is understandably the primary target in one's mid-20s.
It is important to note at this point that most of the past, current and foreseeable future IITians are in IIT, not because they have any special love for engineering innovations but simply because they have the aptitude to be an IITian. In the larger scheme of things, this makes a world of difference.
Chetan Bhagat was a similar 'engineer'. He was in IIT because he had the necessary acumen for being there, not because his dream was to be an engineer. So, even if he could, he never wanted to contribute to the country's engineering scene. But a Prime Minister's voice and opinions actually affect a country in real time, big time.
As for the self-flaunting, affair-obsessed, stupid desi novels, they were a market niche in India's book market waiting to be exploited. Can't fault a man to aim for some serious cash with a couple of hundred printed pages, now can we?

The post is written by Akshit Kumar, a 23 year old thrifty, nifty introvert from the Indian temple city of Jammu. He graduated from Indian Institute of Technology Roorkee in 2013 and completed his Masters in Physics from University of Sussex, UK in 2014. His interests include Natural and Life Sciences, Mathematics, Coding, Mystery Novels, Thriller movies and TV series, body-weight workouts, Chess, Football, Cricket and Poker. He is working on his first thriller novel, which hopes to see the light of day by the end of this year. You can contact him through Gmail, Facebook and Quora.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

No Smoking!

It’s been more than a year, I have been looking forward for an interview of someone who had been a chain smoker for really a long time but has successfully quit now. Finally the day has come.

Allow me to introduce you all to Kabir (name changed), a sweet guy in his 20s. He was more than willing to share his experiences with me regarding quitting smoking and was very eager to have the info reach chain smokers who are trying very hard to quit. Let us first take a moment to congratulate him on successfully quitting smoking. So here goes the interview.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Intolerable Relatives-in-Facebook Syndrome

Disclaimer: All the persons mentioned in this article are completely real. Any resemblance to real persons, especially your relatives, is purely intentional. This article is a collective opinion based on extreme research done on real life experiences of persons between age 25 and 30, who have been using Facebook since their college years.

I have got a real bad feeling that the world is coming to an end! Reason: My relatives have joined Facebook. I mean the older generation.  Being blessed to have really cool parents who have been using Facebook, sending mails, enjoying being online pretty much like any other non-computer-student in their 20s, I find the lameness of my relatives a little less tolerable and a little more annoying than their real life presence.

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