Rejoice! A considerable portion of India’s unemployment problem has been solved. Are you an engineer who has just completed his studies? Are you an aspiring manager who has recently completed his MBA? Most importantly, are you, just like thousands of other idiots, realizing too late that you are absolutely no good either as an engineer or as a manager? Because if you are, congratulations! you’re just one step away from fame and fortune. I will tell you a little secret that will make you not only famous but also a millionaire. And that’s not all. You will also become a youth icon, a regular in Bollywood parties, an expert on matrimony and a lifestyle guru. Sounds tempting? Yes?
Here’s the secret : all you have to do, is to write one absolutely trashy, filthy, disgusting, senseless English novel.
You don’t believe me? Take a look at this.
Honestly, I don’t get it. My idea of history is that when the number of young scientists, artists, poets, authors, philosophers goes up in a country, things get better. New discoveries are made, quality of art and literature improves dramatically, new ideas are born. Am I missing something here? Isn’t that more or less what Renaissance was all about? Why is that in India, we seem to be going steadily in the opposite direction, so far as young authors are concerned?
The trend started with Chetan Bhagat. In all honesty, the guy did write one decent book : “Five point someone.” I wish he had stopped there. But no. He kept delivering one bucket of trash after another. One night at the call center, Three mistakes of my life, Two states, Revolution 2020 and what not. And you can’t really blame him. All his books have been bestsellers, along with two movie adaptations already.
Now the worst thing Chetan Bhagat did is that he unwittingly sparked off a trend. Dozens of fresh MBA pass-outs suddenly noticed that they had roughly the same educational qualifications as Bhagat. Next they realised or in most cases incorrectly assumed that they could write passable English. Then they imagined that they were the only ones who had some dumb romantic entanglements in college, and hey presto! we had a dozen college novels and dozen new novelists on our hands.
And what novels they are! Let me tell you, you’ve never read anything like them, except a hundred foreign versions of them in Mills & Boons, with vastly better language, grammar, plot and characters. There are a few things common in most of them. You would have a protagonist who is either in a good college with no aptitude for studies, or working for peanuts in some small tech company that is about to go bust. They would most likely have unhappy childhoods as well. There would be a two or three girls : a heroine, a nerd, and a..um..lady of questionable character in most cases. Depending on the storyline there would also be one or more of the following : corrupt politicians, police, natural disasters or political unrests, parents that would either be abusive or super-supportive, horrible bosses etc. There would also be considerable sex and booze, promiscuity and downright stupidity. I gotta stress that again. In all such shitty stories, you’ll see the characters doing things that anybody with the intellect of a pigeon would avoid without a second thought.
Reading this far, you might wonder that if these books are so pathetic, how come someone publishes them? There are reasons for this. One, post Chetan Bhagat, desi romance fiction became a new measure of “cool” in schools and colleges. And you know how that works. You don’t have to read a book to be cool, you don’t have to understand english to be cool, you don’t have like an author to be cool. All you gotta do, is to buy the latest book that the hottest chick in your college got as a gift from her latest boyfriend, and then promptly proclaim the fact on Facebook. The publishers understand this and sell the books cheap, thus making them affordable to just about any kid with an allowance, and from there it’s a short hop to the bestseller lists. There’s one more way that one of these authors has employed, presumably after some publisher threatened to shoot him after reading a manuscript : use the money earned from that MBA degree and start your own publishing house. No one can stop you now.
I’m deliberately not mentioning any author’s name here. It’s not because I don’t want to offend anyone. If you’re dumb enough to like one of those books, I couldn’t care less about hurting your sensibilities anyway. It’s because there are so many, including a seventeen year old kid who starts every chapter with(I kid you not) a small excelsheet, that I’m bound to miss more names than I mention.
Having said all that, there’s one delightful exception to this rule. That’s Amish Tripathi with his Shiva Trilogy. He depicts the God Shiva’s life as that of a mortal man who came to be known as a God through his deeds and ideals. It’s a refreshing, joyful trio of books that restores your faith in a lot of things you’ve left behind in your childhood. Do read them, if you can.
Also, please note that the entire rant above is only about the College/Youth romance creeps. There are plenty of Indian writers who write great books in English. Amitav Ghosh, Rohinton Mistry, Vikram Chandra, Arvind Adiga to name a few.
To end on a positive note, here’s some advice on how can you avoid accidentally buying or starting to read any of those books. Easy. If you see “This is not another college/youth story” on the back cover, run! That’s exactly what it is. Besides, the titles are usually dead giveaways. Sample these :
- Love, Life and a Beer Can! Should all be served chilled.
- Mistakes Like Love and Sex.
- I too had a love story.
- Of Course, I Love You, Till I Find Someone Better!!!
- Now That You Are Rich, Lets Fall In Love!
Get the picture? Oh, and in case you have been wondering about the title and the cover image of this post, that’s the novel I’m writing.
- Indian novels you should never read (literaryyard.com)
- A first choice still for many (thehindu.com)
- Chetan Bhagat turns narrator for Shaadi.com (ibnlive.in.com)
- Revolution 2020: review…sort of – Part 1 (fewbar.wordpress.com)