Chetan Bhagat’s critics though carp about his characters, his language (more Hinglish than English), the plots, and what have you. “Thankfully the number of people who like my work far outnumber those who don’t, even though the former may be less ‘vocal’ than the haters,” Bhagat says. Mehra recounts with much nostalgia the Saturday evening his parents went out for dinner and he picked up the manuscript of Bhagat’s Five Point Someone. “I was reading till midnight. I couldn’t put it down.”
Bhagat’s contemporaries, however, are cagey about talking about him. The constant sniping over his Hinglish prompted Bhagat to tweet recently: “I don’t write in Hinglish. Simple English yes. Hinglish, no.” Possibly, Bhagat himself is unconsciously at war with his own success story, aspiring to be more India than Bharat, unaware of the bridge he’s inadvertently been building between the two Indias.
One can’t blame him; in the right classes in India English is still spoken with proper accent and intonation. Anyone who can’t is an upstart, a wannabe. Something that Bhagat, with his middle-class upbringing and his aspirational career graph, is clearly uncomfortable with. He’s no small-town boy and he did go to IIT and IIM, picked up a well-paid bank job to give it all up for writing. But his unprecedented success may change things. It has already spawned a million copycats.