Ponderings of an Idle Mind

When I had picked up his first book, I appreciated its simple words and very relatable descriptions. I could see that Chetan Bhagat does not write fantastically but he could entertain for a short while. In hindsight, we may call his book average, which it may be, but when it had first come out many enjoyed a few hours of Five Point Someone. Sadly, I cannot say this for his second book and the reason of its success eludes me just like that of the movie Raja Hindustani. Seriously, that movie perplexes me even after 12 years of its release.

All said and done, I remain a fan of Indian fiction and if a book comes for mere Rs. 95, I tend to pick it up, even if to only satisfy my curiosity. So on one such curious May afternoon, I picked up The 3 Mistakes of My Life. I finished reading it today. If that does not say enough about the book, nothing else can.

Although nine volumes of teenage romance-drama, three fantasy graphic novels, a classic, a fantasy novel, and a few Manga comics punctuated my reading, I did manage to finish this book at last. I started reading Bhagat’s third book right after I had finished a couple of Agatha Christies. His bad luck that his ordinary writing got compared to an enriching piece. However, as I finished this book, I realized that in this very ordinary writing and in the choice of events, situations, and characters lies the secret of success of his not-so-great books.

I know many voracious readers who have to think for a moment before they can place Chetan Bhagat but I also know many more people who usually do not read but have read Bhagat’s books. They have also invariably read The Da Vinci Code.

Bhagat writes about India as it is right now and thus strikes a cord with the busy gen-y (is it still gen-y or have we reached gen-z?) He writes for the teenagers and twenty-somethings who do not care about books in general but flip through the newspapers twice a week and pick up their favorite sports/fashion magazine every other month. He speaks their language, he talks about what they have seen and not about what they heard from their parents or read in the history books.

So despite the ordinary writing, wafer-thin story line, and a repeat performance of the storyteller stunt, I can see that this book is going to do fairly well. The book (are you worried about spoilers?) gets into the Bhuj earthquake, Twin Towers, and Godhra riots; a brilliant period to pick up for a masala book, if you ask me. Anyone who is a little generous with ones emotions will feel strongly at one point or the other. For me the moment was when I heard about the Ahmedabad blasts while I was in midst of this book on Saturday.

So although you can write off Chetan Bhagat as quality writer, he possesses a definite knack for writing books that will sell. Raja Hindustani, however, still remains a mystery.


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