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Q & A with Chetan Bhagat
Text by Shraddha Jahagirdar-Saxena and Photographs by Payal Shah
Published: Volume 14, Issue 4, July-August, 2006

Young investment banker, Chetan Bhagat, hit the headlines when the global rights to his second novel, One Night @ The Call Center, were sold to Transworld. In an interface with the best-selling author on his recent visit to Mumbai, SHRADDHA JAHAGIRDAR-SAXENA quizzes him on his take on the youth in India, the 'fantastical' hand of God in his success and the possibility of turning his creations into films like many others of his ilk have done

His no-frills visiting card proclaims but one of his dual work identities: Chetan Bhagat, vice-president, Strategic Investment Group, Deutsche Bank. That is not the reason why the financial whiz kid is currently in the news though. It is his real life alter ego that has hogged headlines. For while novelist, Chetan Bhagat's first offering, Five Point Someone - What Not To Do At IIT! (FPS) - a fresh take on his student years - had been a national best-seller and even got a thumbs-up from author, Amitav Ghosh for its easy style and mild irreverence, the global rights to his second creation have been sold by publishers, Rupa & Co, to Transworld for a phenomenal $250,000 plus. Interestingly, though One Night @ The Call Center (ON@TCC) received mixed reviews, the book sold an unprecedented two lakh copies in the first two months of its release late last year.

Born and brought up in New Delhi, the 32-year-old professional hails from a typical middle class Punjabi background. The Army Public School student later graduated from the Indian Institute of Technology (Delhi) and the Indian Institute of Management (Ahmedabad). Bhagat now lives in Hong Kong with his wife, Anusha, a former IIM-A classmate, and his twin sons. One eye firmly on the often wildly fluctuating stock markets, he manages to take time off to follow his inner calling - writing.

In Mumbai on work, Bhagat emerges - suited and booted into the swanky lobby of a South Mumbai business hotel - a far cry, by his own admission, from the trousers and Tees he usually dons in the images that adorn the book covers of his creations. Making time early in the morning for a breakfast confabulation, the two-novel old wordsmith talks about the thrills of straddling two different worlds...

Unlike other contemporary Indian novels, neither of your books have any overtly Indian elements in it.
I don't do the typical literary stuff. There are many brilliant writers in that category anyway. I feel that modern India is interesting enough and frankly more relevant. My stories are usually about people and their inner conflicts - so what they wear and eat is less relevant than what they think and feel.

Who are your target readers?
Anyone who is Indian - young or young at heart. I address the youth - their concerns - because I have a connection with them. I am now a generation ahead but not that old that I cannot connect with them. After FPS and ON@TCC were published, the feedback I received showed that I have a power over them because I have found what drives them. They read my books and think I am cool. Young readers like what I say and the way I say it; their parents read my novels to find out what their kids like...or are like.

How Indian would you say you are?
A 100 per cent Indian! I was born and brought up in India - I can never lose my emotional connection with India. I will be returning to the country, perhaps, to Mumbai soon. My characters and situations though are not stereotypically Indian as those in novels aimed at Western audiences. They are essentially Indian in their thoughts and motivations.