How did Chetan Bhagat write it

"Fifty people like me could do it"

Chetan Bhagat rose from a humble background to become a successful investment banker. Today he is a well-known writer in India - and perhaps tomorrow's generation politician.

Chetan Bhagat speaks to a journalist from the Wall Street Journal. So enough time after the long journey from the stuffy center of Mumbai to regain your strength in the luxurious ground floor living room with a view of a well-tended green area - and to listen to the end of the conversation. Of course, says Bhagat and laughs a little uncertainly, he thinks about going into politics at some point. That would be the third reinvention of yourself. Because Bhagat, who comes from a middle class family, has already had a successful career as an investment banker. He is married to the head of UBS India, lived in Hong Kong and Singapore for years and started writing during this time. His books have become bestsellers and have made him the most successful English-speaking author in India.

Present on all channels

Chetan Bhagat writes about what he knows. The Indian middle class, their dreams, hopes and defeats in a country that, in his opinion, is going to the dogs. Because Bhagat has always written about the younger generation and, as he himself now says, “thinks young”, he is considered a youth idol despite his almost 40 years of age. His Twitter account recently broke the two million follower barrier - "not bad for a writer, right?" Bhagat smiles and sips his tea.

But the novels are no longer enough for him; After all, in every book there is only room for one of the many misery that plagued India. In his last novel, “Revolution 2020”, he took on the almost unbearable corruption in the education system, a topic that he is still not going to let go of. “Corruption in the infrastructure sector is bad enough, but ultimately only leads to potholes in the streets. But corruption in the education sector is far worse, because the resulting potholes in the mind are irreparable for at least a generation. " Precisely because young people are ready for a change, even killing themselves for fear of failure at school, that is so tragic. Bhagat himself was on the verge of suicide once during his college years; he had already deposited the poison in his room.

Bhagat is now playing on all available channels. In addition to Twitter, he blogs for major Hindi and English-language newspapers, writes columns and travels across the country to give motivational speeches. Now, with the elections coming up, the pace has picked up again. Above all, he accuses the old lady of the political scene, the Congress Party, of wanting to divide the country. According to the colonial formula of "divide and rule", they try to separate the poor from the middle class and are not even afraid of absurd slogans such as "All are the same, but different!" back. "Instead of reflecting on the fact that even in a complicated society like India there are simple values ​​that unite everyone, the old keyboard of inequality is simply used," says Bhagat angrily. «Rich against poor, high against low caste, Hindus against Muslims. After all, we are so far advanced that when choosing a mobile phone connection, we don't ask about caste or religion, but simply about the best offer. "

Chetan Bhagat is certain that these dichotomies have dangerous effects on other areas. Also on the gender balance. The group rape of a young woman over a year ago had made society aware of this issue, but the rigid punishments that were now based on sexual assault only attacked the problem on the surface. The actual faults are more complicated and embedded in a historical context: "Books that praise sexual freedom such as the Kamasutra, with which the western world likes to define Indian sexuality, were written before the reign of the Islamic Mughals," says Bhagat. And after the Mughals came the equally prudish Victorian English, that was almost 500 years of sexual oppression.

In his analysis, Bhagat is less interested in the hierarchical gender relations in rural areas than in those in modern cities. “Because this is a completely new phenomenon - this anger of the young, male generation, who, although well educated, have no prospects for the future and then see young women coming out of expensive multiplex cinemas. It's poor against rich, a completely perverted form of class struggle! " This development is promoted, of all things, by the instruments that offer the young generation the chance for the first time to move in a more open intellectual and social environment. The pornographic content that can be accessed via smartphones and Internet connections has established models of violence, which are all the more effective as the availability of such images and ideas is a new and unfamiliar phenomenon for Indian society. Instead of being viewed from a distance, they amalgamated dangerously exponentially with traditional forms of oppression. But even Bhagat sometimes misjudges the zeitgeist. When he recently tweeted about the dangerously fluctuating exchange rate of the rupee: "The rupee asks if there is no punishment for its rapist", a shitstorm of indignation broke out; the entry had to be deleted.

Modi - a sinister hope

Like many other Indian intellectuals, Bhagat hopes that something crucial will change with the coming elections. "The middle class," he says, "longs for a strong leader who will finally clean up." And he continues excitedly: "How desperate must India be for a man like Modi to even get a chance!" Narendra Modi, who is running for the nationalist-Hindu BJP, as chief minister of Gujarat is not only supposed to have tolerated or even orchestrated the pogroms there by Hindu nationalists against the Muslim minority in 2002, he also never officially distanced himself from those events . But especially the young generation, cheated of their future prospects, hardly remembers these events, which for many still fell into childhood; rather, it is based on Modi's current image - namely, on his economic success model implemented in Gujarat, in which everyone seems to get the opportunities they deserve. And then, says Bhagat, one must not forget the love of the Indians for Bollywood: “In the film 'Slumdog Millionaire' a tea seller wins first prize in the TV quiz. Everyone loved that. So why not also Modi, who also sold tea as a child? "

Real Change?

Bhagat shows clear sympathy for the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), which was only founded in 2012: "It is unique, and for the first time there is a party that has not subscribed to any of the old, well-trodden paths and acts with complete integrity." In fact, the party already showed consistency in the search for candidates for the local elections in Delhi at the beginning of December: Even candidates who had already been nominated were withdrawn if it turned out in retrospect that they had been involved in any kind of corruption affair - in keeping with the party symbol, a broom. However, says Bhagat, this party also needs financial resources and a prominent leader so that it can assert itself on the political stage.

So maybe it will work without a strong leader and orientation to the example of autocratic governments like in Taiwan or Singapore. And if these elections don't bring about change, then maybe the next one - and Bhagat also reiterates the idea of ​​going into politics himself: "Fifty people like me could do it." He cares little that every author who has gone into politics has lost literary literature. “Then there is the book that I'm working on now, in which I try for the first time to give people in the countryside a voice. And there is - Twitter! "