Book Review: What Young India Wants
Chetan Bhagat, that cheeky chronicler of young India, is back with a compilation of essays and columns and it is titled…What Young India Wants. That sexy SEO-friendly title is sure to get marketers in a tizzy because it pretty much states that Bhagat is about to unlock the secrets of our hopes, desires, dreams and ambitions.
We had hopes for this book, reader. We really did. And even though we didn’t care much for his last book, a fictional novel called Revolution 2020 about our corruption conundrum, we are eternally grateful to the Bhagat machine; that review remains one of this site’s most read posts. Now, with this foray into non-fiction, his first, he showcases his spectacular ability to graze and skim the surface of many a subject (as seen, no doubt, by his countless fans in his weekly columns for The Times of India from where most of these essays have been pulled and air-brushed with minor copy changes).
It is here through sections on society, politics and the youth that Bhagat gives us his opinion on the current state of things, though the book is really less an investigation into what the young ’uns of India want, and more a loosely gathered compendium of Bhagat-isms. That is, wisdom dispensed in the form of chapters that cover everything from education and terrorism to wealth and happiness, with each titled jauntily enough—“Ready For A Spring Cleaning?” goes one; “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” is another—to suggest India’s problems can be wiped out with just a bit of can-do cheeriness and peppering of platitudes.
Details, shmetails. Bhagat clearly could not be bothered to delve beneath the surface, and such is the beauty of his fast-flowing ruminations—that most politicians are greedy scums of the earth for instance or that our education system needs a serious overhaul—that they reflect popular sentiment broadly enough to elicit a “me too!” reaction from his readership. In short, if you’re hoping for depth of analysis, we suggest you look elsewhere. With each essay at a page and a half (or two, at the most), there is scant room for exploration of cause and reason, let alone suggesting a logical and viable solution.
Of course, Bhagat doesn’t shy away from offering panaceas of his own curious and callow making. Of the murky dealings between pols and corporates, he states grandly “Our laws need to be amended for corporate disasters” and that “politician-industrialist socialising should not be encouraged”. He is right, of course, but crucially, the how is conveniently missing, the details presumably left to the policy think tanks and wonks that he derides for thinking rather than doing.
The back cover of the book, however, promises answers to such questions as “Why do our students regularly commit suicide?” (the question itself a grammatical non sequitur), and “Why is there so much corruption in India?”, suggesting a decidedly Freakonomics approach to decoding some of modern India’s most perplexing and worrisome issues. But this is not even economics-lite, it’s Bhagat-lite, which is to say, an unnervingly flat offering from a writer whose hallmark is remaining firmly on the surface.
What Young India Wants by Chetan Bhagat, Rupa, Rs140. Buy it from Flipkart.com.Tags: book reviews, Books, Chetan Bhagat, What Young India Wants