A Rejoinder to Chetan Bhagat


Vineet Thakur

Vineet Thakur, a scholar of International politics, responds to Chetan Bhagat’s blog in the Times of India. He can be contacted at vineet1232[at]gmail.com.

Dear Chetan,

Let me confess – I have not read any of your books. Well, technically this is a bit ambiguous. Long years ago I had my tryst (sorry if this reminds you of the father of these wretched Indian Liberals, Jawaharlal Nehru) with ‘One Night@Call Center’ and exactly four pages later, you and I parted ways. The assault on my senses was unbearable and to compensate for the sheer masochism of that act, I engaged in sadism of equal proportions: I despatched the book as a gift to a friend who, as you can understand, I was not particularly fond of.

Please do not think I’m being an intellectual snob – I have actually read Amish Tripathi and I quite enjoy him. More than the writing, it is the sheer lack of imagination in your writing that put me off. But then, who am I to judge? I have never read anything else in long form by you. May be, you are a better writer than those four pages. Or, it is quite likely that I am of that category of ‘English-educated liberal with an English speaking girlfriend’ that you have recently taken up the cudgel against. By the way, did you notice that most of the award returnee liberals actually write in vernaculars? I bet you didn’t. After all, aren’t you the most read author in English in India? Unfortunate as that may seem, I actually find it quite reassuring that our best reply to a festering colonial insult – i.e. the imposition of English – is you. You have appropriated, damaged and robbed English of any beauty it ever had. Take that you dirty Colonisers!

Chetan Bhagat
Chetan Bhagat

But, while one may rejoice in your violent assault on the language, it is the sheer force of your intellectual poverty, in the ironically called ‘think pieces’, that hits many like a volcano – even if they come draped in the sensically-sanitized The Times of India. Take your new piece on the anatomy of a liberal. If such a shoddy piece with gross generalisations was ever written by a class X student for an exam essay, s/he would surely fail. By your definition, anyone who speaks and writes in English is a liberal, and one who doesn’t is a nationalist.

1.25 billion people sorted in a line. Wow!

Of course, the argument – nay, statement – could be shredded without even raking one’s brains much. Arguably the most progressive movement in the post-independence history of this country was the JP movement – led mostly by the kind of people who in your dictionary would be nationalist conservatives. Come down from the high pedestal of twitter sometimes and go around this country. You will find that some of the most valiant struggles for reclaiming democracy are happening at the grassroots – yes, by non-English speakers – where people are fighting for land and water, against caste and religious oppression. But then as a friend had once written in a blog, based on his first hand experience with you, you are usually more busy on your phone even when you are visiting the people.

If that is too much for you, just take a look around and see which leader is the most trolled by the so called ‘liberals’ in the social media world: no, it’s not Narendra Modi, it is Rahul Gandhi. And where would you place leaders like Lalu Yadav, Nitish Kumar, Mayavati – in fact, most of the regional leaders who also oppose the ‘Nationalist’ BJP? But, wait … why am I even arguing here, when clearly you did not even place an argument on the table? You just advanced a lazy, stupid statement. And here, some part of me refuses to acknowledge that you are so dumb. Rather, I am beginning to suspect something else.

…Voila! I have a new theory on this.

I think by saying that ‘English educated “men” (clearly, you didn’t mean women – at least, not straight women)’ are liberals, you are trying hard to put yourself in that vaunted group: liberals. After all, you fit the description perfectly, no? To top it, you are actually the best-selling English author in India, which in your own mental utopia would mean that you are the Philosopher King of Liberals. After all, all that one needs by way of qualification for entry into that group is the know-how of English: to speak it with right intonations, to write it with public school flair. The quality of intellect, the depth of argument, the complexity of ideas: nothing else is required, just English. And you are Mr. English without Ideas! In a single stroke, you have turned yourself from an outcast to the Leviathan of this elite club of your imagination.

I guess, we should start giving you some intellectual credit, after all.


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