Ketan Bhagat introduces himself as everything he’s not. “I’m not Ranbir Kapoor. You don’t have to stand up for me!” he says, as his audience at Just Books, Kochi, rose to welcome him. “I’m not a writer,” he says, though fresh copies of his debut novel Complete/Convenient sit in stacks beside him. “I’m not Chetan Bhagat, though I am his brother.” he laughs. He rattles off a familiar litany in proof of the last statement. “Chetan went to IIT followed by IIM and passed out with a gold medal from there. I barely made it past school, a diploma, and now a job as a mid-level sales manager. But most importantly, my stories begin where Chetan’s end,” says Ketan.
Complete/Convenient has no college boys falling in love. Instead, a married man named Kabir travels to Sydney to make a living there, hoping to find a life without “traffic jams, queues, dirt, corruption and social obligations”. While those dreams do come true, they come at the cost of yearning for home, its food, people and culture. It’s a middle-life coming-of-age tale. “I’ve no imagination,” says Ketan, “So this is my life’s story. I went to Sydney, young and married, imagining the best was ahead, but it was nothing like that. NRI life isn’t a Karan Johar movie. And thus far, I haven’t read a single book that portrayed that life honestly.” The book therefore talks about office politics in a foreign land, cranky customers and familial disputes — the other side to the gloss.