An Open Letter to Chetan bhagat.. well, almost.

I have been reading some faintly amusing columns that Mr. Bhagat writes either for TOI or on his website. Usually, I would just smile and let it pass, but I have just realized one thing: People take this man seriously. Now, I have read some his books, and I admire the topics he chooses but not the way he writes them. It’s not a journal entry or a friggin’ 8th std essay, that you would blabber anything that came to your head. It’s a novel for God’s sake. But it’s okay if he can’t observe the aesthetics of it – these are novels. But the problem is that the same approach continues when he writes columns. And sadly, as he is the ‘youth’ writer, people do believe him.

Which is why he needs to change his approach.

I will illustrate on the two articles where he goes around adivising women. One on women’s day, and the other on how to reduce their stress levels. Links –

http://www.chetanbhagat.com/blog/2013/03/12/five-things-women-need-to-change-about-themselves/

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/home/opinion/edit-page/Dont-worry-Be-happy/articleshow/9237496.cms?referral=PM

Now, on the face of it, it looks like he is trying to be nice and empowering. But one always needs to look beyond that. For example,

“At a broader level, this isn’t just about our women. We Indians have a habit of exploiting anyone without power”

So, women are without power unless they are the saas or the politican?

“However, the stubborn, fragile and pampered Indian male ego is a tough nut to crack” – and he uses this to justify why women should do MORE than what they are already doing, in order to be less stressed! Hello!?

And as King of Contradictions, he criticizes the movie cocktail for showing that ‘modern women find salvation in making phulkas’ and in the women’s day blog, he says ‘it’s okay if you can’t make 4 dishes for lunch, make 1″. Bottomline – still cook, woman. Can’t keep your man hungry can you?

Cleverly illustrated by this pic –

Image

(go on this tumblr for more of his contradictions hilariously illustrated – http://chetanbhagatforbooker.tumblr.com/ )

He has this idea in his blogs where he tries to pacify the men, by saying

” I’m biased, but Indian women are the most beautiful in the world. As mothers, sisters, daughters, colleagues, wives and girlfriends – we love them. Can you imagine life without the ladies?

It would be a universe full of messy, aggressive and egomaniacal males running the world, trying to outdo each other for no particular reason. There would be body odour,socks on the floor and nothing in the fridge to eat. The entertainment industry would die. Who wants to watch movies without actresses? ”

So, the men should help in ‘saving’ the women, because they are good-looking, entertaining and help to maintain you? Really?

If one wants to empower women, he does not look for the benefits others can seek in it. That is just business, not empowerment.

I faintly remember another column of his about going to Ra.one, and the same blog told about how he is such a maid-saviour. About how one maid ran away and he still educated her replacement. Before he goes around being so pompous, he should look at the work organizations are doing – on a much larger scale. Often the rate of return on this work is very less – people in these organizations may feel that their work is bearing no fruit. But they continue to work, and don’t boast.

Anyway, that’s all trivialities, you would say. But then he says, women, since politicians don’t care about you, don’t vote. Instead, assert yourself, and change one man at a time. (http://blogs.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/The-underage-optimist/the-new-vote-bank-for-politicians-aam-aurat/)

This particular line caused an outcry in some circles – “Turns out that when it comes to vote bank politics, women are the new Muslims”.

ARRE!

So cook (even if only one dish), clean, do not get stressed (because then he starts to write how bad the stress is and asks you to change and not the men as they have ‘fragile egos’), go to work, discuss work with hubby, be awesome mom, manage the maids, and now even go on some holy mission to change men!?

There is a very good reply to this written by Lakshmi Chaudhry – http://www.firstpost.com/politics/lets-get-political-why-the-aam-aurat-should-ignore-chetan-bhagat-1382287.html

To quote her, “I’m all for Bhagat telling women to “assert yourself” — but not when it is accompanied by a discouraging message that they need to cede politics entirely to men.  At least one important part of asserting yourself ought to include asserting your most basic right as a citizen on election day”.

To drive home her point, if we don’t vote it’s all the more likely to get a misogynist government. And if the govt fails, how can you tell women to reform one man at a time? theka le rakha hai sab ka? We are stressed enough as it is, Mr. Bhagat, as you have been kind enough to observe.

 

I do not have a problem that he thinks this way. I know many who do – many in the family in fact. You might tell them that if they are trying to empower women, why does it sound like they are doing a favour? And often, a favour to themselves as much as to women – becuase after all, what is bollywood without them actresses – but it does not sink in. (On that note, he called bollywood – ” our most modern and forward cinema”. Please, one look at the big movies and the stereotypes in them and we know that bollywood is neither forward nor modern. But then, he would have seen that was he not busy ‘enjoying’ Ra.one and Cocktail.)

I have a problem because people listen to him. I believe that when people in large numbers care about what you say, it is only right that you yourself care about what you say.

So my advice to him –

1) Please tell Indian men to change and not just women – and yes, despite their fragile egos.

2) Read. Please research the topics you talk about in columns. See what other people have to say. If you did this before you wrote novels, you could have published better writing.

 

Unless he does this, he is just the Kapil Sharma of writing – making fun of women throughout the show, and concluding with “aurton ki izzat karni chaye”.

A struggle?

“Sab kuch commercial ho gaya hai yaar”, she says and waves her hand nonchalantly.

Her friend, sitting across from the table, nods solemnly, sipping expensive wine in an expensive glass, a trademark of being in an expensive hotel. The conversation was about art. Or was it about fabric? Did it matter? They were just whiling away their time, splurging the cash that would last them up until the next ‘job’.

Both of them were high profile escorts. Important men would routinely ask especially for their company. Rita, the one who thought that the world is rapidly becoming commercial, was a favourite of one of the important ministers these days, thus the expensive meals so often. The only problem though, was that he was becoming too attached. He was paying the agency money so that they would not ‘employ’ her anywhere else.

But she could not devote herself entirely to him, despite that. This is why she had called her friend to lunch – to tell her about this development. She had met someone. She had gone to accompany a friend who was a struggling actor to one of the auditions. Often these girls make do in between acting jobs by becoming escorts.

When her turn came, she was to give single auditions and group auditions and many other formalities. She said she would take long. Rita had spotted a guy from one of the ‘parties’ and was uncomfortable. She decided to go to a nearby mall and wait for her friend to get done. Rita crossed all the clothes’ shops with only a quick glance. She needed to dress well for her work, but right now, she needed to indulge her mind.

She went into a book shop. Rita had a fantastical idea that knowledge would save her. She would read anything and everything. From trashy romance novels to those discussing the economy or philosophy or religion, she would read anything she could access. She would become a transparent being in this world of words, symbols of her freedom. She would absorb what others had to say, and form an idea only after she was done reading that book or piece. This helped her to acquire a non-judgemental, and to some, an opinionless taste in books.

But she did have her favourites of course. She did not side with a particular opinion, but rather, some ways of expressing opinion opinion appealed to her more than others. How could we describe it? She did not like it when the writer tried to hoard readers by mindlessly introducing sex or some other desirable trait in the book, neither did she like extremely technical writers who would be very dry regarding what they had to say.

She read them all nonetheless, but she loved those the most who could charm the readers simply, without jargon or glamour, or mindless rubbish. It didn’t matter what these writers were saying, were they anti-religion or pro-religion, whether they were feminists or patriarchs. What was important, was this – they way they spoke their mind. Isn’t that how we function in life, too, Rita would think. There are many things that are not good for us, but we do them because they come across as appealing.

One such writer had just released a book, and there was a huge crowd in the bookshop. Rita just remembered this, and cursed herself for not coming sooner. She ran into the bookshop and asked for a copy of his book. Why was this writer special? He never put up his picture, and most people assumed that the current name was not his real name either. His books were about nothing in particular, and everything. It was a commentary on various aspects – on the social world, the political system, romantic love, the efficiency or inefficiency of Greenwich Mean time.. about everything under the sun. Why people liked him was often a mystery to critics. But it was true that his opinions were informed ones, and he was well-read, and if possible, had worked in multiple fields to know so many things so well. But he told them like you would discuss the weather over chai.

As a result, the readers did not feel overwhelmed and reduced to nincompoops. They felt like they were talking to a friend. A wise friend. And because he often jumped topics, yet linked them well, in so obscure way, they never got bored. When his first book came out, the publishing house that supported this venture was ridiculed by the who’s who of Literati. But later they realized that this small little publisher was growing, thanks to the sales by this writer. They were solidly guarded of his identity however. No matter how much the newsfolks tried to dig, by hook or by crook, they would not let go.

As a result, this writer had become a new-age guru of some kind. The critics slowly started to accept that he was influential. Often, they would fight over the genre he wrote. He used fiction too sometimes, at other times it was narration of his own life, or his observations, or hard facts broken down for understanding. Such was the enigma who’s book Rita wanted to buy. However, she saw that there was only one copy on the shelf. She ran to grab it.

However, she saw that the other end of the book was grabbed by someone else. A moderately hairy arm, it was a man. Youngish – late 20s, glasses and a creased shirt, with cotton pants. He looked like a voracious reader. He was about to say something when Rita interrupted him.

“Can you please let me buy this book? I may not be able to go out for several days after today, and this is the largest bookstore and they are running out of copies. Please? I’ll pay you double the amount of the book so that you can buy two copies for yourself, tomorrow? Let me take this one?”

Many things went through the young man’s mind. For instance, what was the logic behind buying two copies? He shrugged it off. Maybe the girl was just flustered. He said he would let her have the book, if she had coffee with him. Rita was taken aback. Nerds had social skills? Lack of opinions meant that Rita still hadn’t challenged the stereotypes in her head. She agreed. It was a small price for letter her have the book.

They discussed about many things, hit it off, and one thing led to another, and they ended up exchanging numbers, fixing a date to meet again. He said he was a product designer. She nodded vehemently, not sure whether this was the right time to ask what products he designed.

“Is that what you told him?” Rita’s friend asked, almost near the end of her wine, gesturing the waiter for a refill. “You told him you’re a struggling actor?”

“Well, am I not? I sleep with important men, just like struggling actors have to do. I put on a face with every new man. And if outside of my knowledge, if one of those creeps makes a video of us fucking, it’d complete the story, would it not? I hardly lied,” Rita said, smiling wryly.

Note – I would like feedback if I should continue this story, with a part 2 or end it here? I have several endings in mind that I could use in part 2, if I were to write it.