Let me clarify right at the beginning: I am not a Chetan Bhagat fan. Therefore, my views might seem prejudiced. I have read just one book of his till date and have not really had the inclination to read any more. This article stems from quite a wonderful session I attended at the annual Times Literary Carnival in Mumbai last year entitled “All we want is Naukri and Chokri” and was in the form of an informal conversation between Barkha Dutt and Chetan Bhagat. The title seemed quite interesting and since Bhagat was speaking for a group that I am a part of, I decided to attend this one. The Aditya Birla Hall at Mehboob Studios in Mumbai was quite packed with young Indians and I was curious to see how Chetan Bhagat would defend his- if I may say so- controversial statement.
Chetan Bhagat believes that all of young India’s ‘needs’ can be bottled down to just two things: a well-paying job and a nice, romantic relationship. In other words, ‘naukri’ and ‘chokri’. These two basic needs must be satisfied first and everything else comes only after them. What I like about Chetan Bhagat is his unwillingness to judge the youth by understanding if they prefer to make these choices or not. He is of the opinion that there’s nothing wrong in wanting to make money or living a comfortable life and supports his own view by stating that only if you have youth wanting to make money will the country progress economically
Throughout his writing career, Bhagat has projected himself as a ‘youth icon’. Through his latest non-fiction book What young India wants, he projects himself as the voice of the youth and places before his readers the needs of this group he represents. What struck me through the entire 2 hour discourse I attended was the practicality with which Bhagat spoke and answered. He wasn’t at all trying to be a Guru advising the youth on how to make it big in life or painting the youth canvas in glorification. Out of the numerous things that the youth of this country want, he zeroed down to just two needs that come above everything else.
However, for all the practicality of his logic, one must wonder: Is young India so selfish? Do they really not think beyond a good job and a good partner? As a miniscule part of this huge group that Bhagat chooses to represent, I am not so sure I agree with him. The youth of this country are far more ambitious to be contented within a world of just a job and a girl (or a boy!). The immense and passionate participation of the youth in the Anna Hazare movement or the recent nationwide protests against the gang rape of a young girl in Delhi lead me to believe strongly that a mere job and a romantic partner cannot sum it up for them. There is a quest for something beyond money and romance in this country. The incredible amount of youth involvement in the social sector is another proof of the same. I believe Bhagat is being very generalizing when he sums it up in that one statement. We have a youth today who is aware and progressive, and their choices are not as simplistic as Bhagat suggests.
When Barkha Dutt countered Bhagat with this very argument, his answer was that she was only looking at the youth such as the ones sitting in that room, the ones who came from the big cities and who were concerned enough to attend a literary event. There remains a much larger India out there, where finding a decent job and getting settled in life are still considered to be the prime needs. Concern for the country and society at large comes only after they get comfortable in their personal life. Is my voice only of the urban, elitist youth then? Or is Chetan Bhagat’s speculative definition of young India far too basic, as his writing generally is to many, like me.