Chetan Bhagat’s Five Point Someone was the first novel that I read. I can see you roll your eyes. But wait, there is more. Two years later, in 2009, I got my first novel published: Tehelka
The summer of 2007 was an unusually warm one in Dhanbad, Jharkhand, but the heat didn’t deter the flurry of guests who came to our house on that stuffy afternoon to congratulate me. The IIT-JEE results had just been declared and I had secured an all-India rank of 993. It was the second best rank in the city, and had attracted quite a few journalists as well who had come to interview me. By evening, there was a heap of sweets and congratulatory cards on the table, and my parents were tearfully happy. One of my neighbours presented me with Chetan Bhagat’s first book from his personal library, saying, “Now that you are going to an IIT, it is important to know what not to do there,” intriguing me so much with the subtitle of the book that by the end of the day’s euphoria, I had jumped headlong into its 300-odd pages.
The book had me hooked. The admission date was two months away; reading it was the closest I could get to living the IIT dream. To a boy who had grown up reading the biographies of scientists and the works of Stephen Hawking, Carl Sagan and the like, Bhagat’s book was a revelation — introducing me to the world of fiction and IITs. During the days of JEE preparation, I was fed into the notion that anything that came in the way of cracking the entrance exam was a waste of time, distractions that must be looked at with contempt. The television and internet were off limits except for perhaps the Discovery Channel and Wikipedia, and when it came to novels, there was no exception at all. When my friends went gaga over Harry Potter, I looked at them with derision. I could not believe 15-year-olds were reading about magic wands and flying broomsticks. After all, I was busy reading A Brief History of Time. But when I started reading Five Point Someone, having just cleared the JEE, I couldn’t stop myself from reading it cover to cover. Full of sex, friends and booze, it revamped my image of IITs being home to nerdy researchers, extremely sincere students and outstanding professors. Simple language, an unsophisticated plot and a risqué storyline made me finish the book the same night, reliving the times I used to stay up late to study for the IITs, only this time reading its antidote. The more I read, the more I looked forward, with naïve anticipation, to the life I assumed I was going to lead there, not academically but on a diametrically opposite plane, one that had fun and girls in it.