Jaipur Live: I can't be Anna, I feel hungry, says Chetan Bhagat
Live updates from Day 2 of the Jaipur Literature Festival.
By Lakshmi Chaudhry and Sandip Roy
Editor’s note: The Jaipur Literature Festival, widely acknowledged as India’s premier literary festival got underway at the Diggi Palace on Friday. The festival made headlines well ahead of its inauguration largely due to the furore over Salman Rushdie’s proposed visit. However the festival also features a star studded line-up with notable names such as David Remnik, Ben Okri, Deepak Chopra and Nilanjana Roy.
Firstpost Editors Sandip Roy and Lakshmi Chaudhry are at the festival, where they will be live blogging the sessions, as well as other interesting activity in and around the Diggi Palace environs.
First up today is Chetan Bhagat, an Indian author, columnist, and speaker. Bhagat is the author of five bestselling novels, the latest being Revolution 2020: Love, Corruption, Ambition. The panel with Chetan Bhagat is called 'In Search of a Story'. Bhagat is in conversation with John Elliot. Elliot is a journalist who has been working in Asia since 1983, initially for the Financial Times. Currently he writes a blog on South Asia current affairs — http://ridingtheelephant.wordpress.com — which also appears on The Independent (UK) newspaper website. He is regular contributor to The Economist and Fortune magazine.
On being targeted by the literary critics, Bhagat says, "Can I change how people think? That's why I write now. This is why I've become a motivational speaker. But my audience wants entertainment. So I had to add a love story. But to make it even hotter, it had to be an infidelity angle. Or else they will say "Yeh kya Anna Hazare type book likh diya."
"But I was lucky Anna Hazare happened when my book, Revolution 2020, came out. Corruption was on top of their mind."
On Anna hiring him as blogger, Bhagat gets offended, saying, "They can't afford me, hello?"
He supports the idea of a Lokpal. Asked if he can be an Anna, Bhagat says, "I feel hungry. They can just put a Bollywood actress there. They never eat anything. And the visuals would be good."
Bhagat feels there's no point in being extremist. "At some point, just shake hands with the other person. I've never had to go hungry or offend people to attract attention. I can get it by being right and communicating that."
On unkind tweets aimed at him, Bhagat says, "Twitter is a really noisy place. Wish you had a Meira Kumar to say, "bhaith jaiye, bhaith jaiye."
"We spent a lot of time converting those who don't like us into liking us. Would I ever say something stupid like Tagore, Chetan, same thing."
"My books are used in tribal areas to teach English. Drivers read my books to learn English to get a better job. If that is not literature I am happy not to be literate."
"You have the right to hurt but should you?," he asks.
Talking about the Salman Rushdie incident, Bhagat says, "Let's not make heroes out of people who have been banned. They have been banned for hurting people. They shouldn't be banned but they are not heroes."
"You can say Muslims are backward, aggressive. That's fine. But they are right to get upset when their gods are attacked. I wouldn't like it if my gods are attacked."
On the pressure parents put on their children to join IIT, Bhagat, himself an IIT graduate, says, "Around 95 percent of parents still push kids to join IIT. But there is a change. There's more opportunity now. Event management is a big industry. Young generation is more passionate. Role models help. Maybe this generation will be less harsh on their kids. Change happens slowly. It is fast in books."
Is corruption just a symptom? "Yes it does not exist if huge inequity didn't exist. Election time campaign plank is caste religion quotas. Lack of good values is an issue. What are Indian values? We don't have a consensus on what we want Indians to be. No one cares about India. Anna has created taste for good values. Young people don't want to see good people who are poor. They want good people who are rich."
"If I carry a jhola they will not listen to me. That's why I came in a Mercedes once. Be good and enjoy the good life."
Bhagat as speaker is very down to earth and informal. People really hang on to his words especially young people.
"Brands are good. It is about trust. JLF is a brand. That part of branding is great. I want my readers to have faith in me. My objective is not abject commercialism."
Asked to give his name to college and get royalties, Bhagat says, "Making money excited me. Not so much now. I have enough."
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Salman Rushdie's canceled appearance generated a lot of media noise but the sad truth is that it made little difference to most of the attendees.
In 1988, Salman Rushdie wrote a stinging letter to Rajiv Gandhi for banning his book. What he said then holds goods even now of the Indian state