After the wild success of his fiction - Five Point Someone, One Night @ the Call Center, The 3 Mistakes of my Life, 2 States and Revolution 2020 - popular author Chetan Bhagat is now trying his hand at non-fiction for the first time with the title 'What Young India Wants'.
CNN-IBN Deputy Editor Sagarika Ghose was in conversation with Chetan Bhagat on her show Face the Nation. The show also had a panel to discuss the book and Chetan Bhagat also took questions from viewers.
Following is the transcript of the discussion on Face the Nation:
Sagarika Ghose: Hi there. We're focusing tonight on the attitudes of India's youth. 'What Young India Wants' that is the title of a newly published collection of newspaper articles and essays by youth icon and best selling author Chetan Bhagat. Chetan is right here in our studio with us. He's going to talk about his book, on India's young people, on his views of India's youth. And to discuss these issues further we also have some eminent young Indians joining us. We have Shivam Vij he is a journalist and an avid blogger. We have Varun Agarwal, author and a former entrepreneur, Vishal Malhotra, TV anchor as well as an actor. Only young men unfortunately on our show, we did try to get young women but unfortunately all the young women we contacted were not available. We thought it might be fun for this to be an interactive show with you the viewer and Chetan Bhagat.
Some excerpts from the book:
"At school our education system hammers out our individual voices and kills our natural creativity, turning us into servile course-material slaves. Our kids are not encouraged to raise their voices in class, particularly when they disagree with the teacher. And of course no subject teaches us imagination, creativity or innovation"
"Why would a young hardworking bright student who has the world ahead of him, do something like this, that is commit suicide? The answer is this-in our constant reverence for the great institution (and I do believe IITs are great) we forget its dark side. And the dark side is that the IITs are afflicted by the quintessential Indian phenomenon of academic pressure, probably the highest in the world"
"There is a lot of talk about India being a young nation and about youth power. However youth power is the biggest myth going around India right now. Of course the youth has spending power - we can buy enough SIM cards, sneakers and fizzy drinks to keep many MNCs in business. But we do not have the power to change things? Can the youth get a new college set up? Can the youth ask the government to provide tax incentives to MNCs to relocate jobs to smaller towns? No way. We are wooed, used, but seldom heard"
"The young generation fails to understand why our politicians become so passionate about defending these relics of the past. Why don't they have a passionate debate about how fast they will build roads, colleges, bridges and power plants? Why don't people get expelled over non performance rather than historical opinions? Why don't we ban useless government paperwork rather than banning books about dead people?"
Why don't we ban useless government paperwork instead of banning books about dead people. That's one of the reflections of the attitude of the youth that has come out in Chetan Bhagat's new book.
We already have Kavitha Gopalakrishnan on phone line from Kerala. Go ahead Kavitha.
Kavitha Gopalakrishnan: Hello, this is a question for Chetan. You say that the Indian youth is becoming selfish by focusing on career but having a job is not a luxury but a necessity. In times when inflation is so high how can you blame youngsters?
Chetan Bhagat: I must tell you Kavitha I am not judging anybody and I am not saying that it is wrong to be selfish. I think it is great to be selfish. I'm here just to tell the truth to people. People think I wrote 'What Young India Wants' therefore I will have great intellectual thoughts on all the social issues, but the most important think is for the youth to secure their future. And I think you should secure future not only for inflation and survive but also if the youth doesn't want to be rich now can the country ever become rich. Do we want to become a nation where youth doesn't want to make money? So I think the youth wants a good job and that is good. And as long as you make your money in the right way, with integrity and with innovation there is nothing wrong in it. And I am celebrating that sprit and it is true that they are selfish… who isn't selfish. As long as you are not hurting anyone in your selfishness, which they are not but the older generation in power is…
Sagarika Ghose: But let me ask you to respond to a question that was trending on twitter all of yesterday which is your quote that the young generation only wants a good job and a great girlfriend and if you are a girl a great boyfriend because that became a bone of contention on twitter. But you said that the social causes must be linked to their ambitions. You said that the youth is basically about ambition and wanting a good life and a great partner. Is that fair on the youth?
Chetan Bhagat: Yeah. And I want people to understand this, why I said girls, job... Firstly this is a reality, I have travelled to 100 cities giving motivational talks and I know that this is where everybody is. When I say girl, I mean a freedom to choose your partner and when I say job it means a good life. Good life is the pursuit of Indians. Now for a good job you need good economy, you need clean system, you need anti-corruption laws. For a good choice of partner you need prejudices to go away, attitudes to go away about you can't marry this person, you can't marry that person. People should have freedom of choice. But it is linked to youth's pursuit of good life… Any crusader who wants to launch a crusade should know that this is what the youth wants. Now drive this. I know to get this to the youth I need a very high GDP growth country...
Sagarika Ghose: So there are other issues with in the youth pursuit of good life. Kavitha does that answer your question?
Kavitha Gopalakrishnan: Yes it does.
Sagarika Ghose: Let me bring in Shivam Vij, is Chetan talking about the metropolitan urban young, there may be a lot of young who don't want a good life or they may want to involved in Dalit mobilisation, caste mobilisation or any other political mobilisation or any other kind of of mass mobilisation. So are we only talking about metropolitan young that is pursuing good life.
Shivam Vij: Well, I don't know, I would like to ask Chetan, is Chetan's idea of Indian youth some kind of monolithic entity because, I think, youth is also divided into rural, urban, caste, zones and so on. And that determines their attitudes and aspirations which can be different in different parts of the country.
Chetan Bhagat: No, of course, I'm not broad brushing everybody but that is with any discussion in India. You can't generalise but I had to give one title so I will say 'What Young India Wants'. I can't say that young India that I have interacted in by life and mu boundaries, so I can't put all that in the title.
Shivam Vij: So it seems that your young India is not even the metropolitan, it is the small town...
Chetan Bhagat: I goes beyond metropolitans, it goes to the small towns. What good life is may be different for some people, for some it is just to have good electricity, for some a decent school, for some to buy a car or may be the latest mobile phone.
Shivam Vij: Well a lot of social media told me what young India wants is to be Chetan Bhagat.
Chetan Bhagat: No, that is extremely unlikely.
Sagarika Ghose: Well lets get in Varun Agarwal, it that from your point of view, you are a young author and a former entrepreneur, is naukri and chokri the basic need of the Indian youth.
Varun Agarwal: Actually Chetan that very statement worries me a lot. If Indian youth only wants naukri and chokri how will we get out next Olympics medal, how will we get big entrepreneur and innovators. I think, we youngsters are far more ambitious that just getting a job and a girl. We want to be achievers rather than just being told what to do at some multi-national. So, I think, we are way more than wanting a naukri and chokri.
Sagarika Ghose: Do you want to respond to that, that actually the aspirations are far higher. This actually is a knowledge based meritocratic society where people want to make most of their talents and skills.
Chetan Bhagat: Yes, that is what when I say naukri and chokri is actually just a casual catchphrase kind of thing but actually it is a pursuit of a good life and they want a good like. And I is not very (*) pursuit but at the end of the day it is not necessarily bad for the country. And you know my friend there has these thinks but if you go to a small town like Meerut or a small town in the northeast, I mean, getting a job is a big achievement today. We might think, you know, watching English media that getting job is not a big deal, I have to try for Olympic medal. But getting a job is no less than getting an Olympic medal for lot of Indians.
Shivam Vij: So youth are not risk taker in that sense, they want job security.
Sagarika Ghose: There is a question which has come on IBNLive. It is from roli65, it says, "What do you think are the main reasons for the lack of empathy and prevalent selfishness in the young Indians? Has the 'Facebook' generation lost touch with reality and become very lazy?" That apps loaded generation, the Facebook, the Twitter generation have they become lazy?
Chetan Bhagat: I think the question is phrased quite nicely and it answers itself. One reason why the aspirations have increased so much is because of the sudden advent of media, internet, smart phones which has reached and shown good life to people. There was a time when people didn't know what good life is but now they can see the good life they can touch it.
Sagarika Ghose: Money is something new, it is only in 1990s that we began to accept that money was not sinful and a crime when the economy was liberalised before that money was a bad word.
Chetan Bhagat: In terms of apathy yes there has been movements… but you know India needs the right leader with the right charisma, everybody needs a coping mechanism. When I said people living on the road, when I first moved to Mumbai, after living abroad for few years, it would bother me a lot. But after a while people just ignore that and just get on with their lives. So people realise that it is so messed up, let me make something of my own life. And over time it becomes a cocoon and a cocoon turns into a shell and the shell becomes harder and yes that is the unfortunate truth that people become here find it difficult to make even a stable life forget about taking risks, forget about caring for others, if you have not eaten...
Sagarika Ghose: So, the life is so hard, the day to day business of life is so hard that actually securing a good life for yourself is a big thing. Let's get Vishal Malhotra, he is a TV anchor as well as actor from Mumbai. Vishal is this also in your line, in entertainment, that people want money and fame and are perhaps willing to take shortcuts with out actually going through… being an actor. Is it again that quick fix, quick money credo that rules your generation in your field?
Vishal Malhotra: Well you know, I would love to answer that but I would just come to that after I tell you something. I'm actually very disappointed that you don't have young Indian women achievers on the show. To answer you question, yes, I do come from a line where unfortunately it is all about fame, the money, the fortune which comes along with it. I have to be very frank it enamours a lot of people who come from not only small towns bout also metro cities, like New Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore. They come in herds here with wrong perception that hey, I'm going to come here, I'm going to be on television and I will make a lot of films and I am going to be next Shah Rukh Khan and Salman Khan. But there is no shortcut to success. If I may deviate and say that I agree with Chetan on one point saying that selfishness is good, I will go one step ahead and say that greed is also good but everything in a limit. Let's not get crazy about it as you rightly said, Sagarika, money is relatively a new concept in India. We are a nouveau riche people.
Sagarika Ghose: So we are celebrating money for the first time and we can't blame the youth for making money the center of their existence. Let's follow on the discussing now from selfishness and pursuit of good life to the attendant result it has in not taking part in political activism. You spend a lot of time in your book writing about… you have written an open letter to Gabdhiji, to Sonia Gandhi. You have talked about how there is a disconnect in youth and politics. You were also a part of Anna Hazare movement; you were sympatric to it… I had a tattoo on your hand which says 'Mera Neta Chor Hai', do you feel that Anna Hazare campaign captured youth.
Chetan Bhagat: It did capture the youth initially, and you know, Sagarika, it let to almost too much burdening on them (Team Anna). People started seeing Anna not only as someone who will get the bill for anti-corruption but somebody who could get them their dreams.
Sagarika Ghose: So it answered youth's aspirations of a political movement. Is that because it was apolitical?
Chetan Bhagat: It was apolitical, it was something that they didn't really clarify what they were in there for. And that is why it led to this...
Shivam Vij: So is Indian youth in search of a Messiah be it Anna Hazare or Chetan Bhagat.
Chetan Bhagat: I'm no Messiah and I agree with you this is not just youth, we have a tendency of these Babas and Messiahs. I'm saying be selfish but take responsibility for your own life.
Sagarika Ghose: Shivam, let's get extend this argument, 70 per cent of our is under the age of 35 but all the politicians are in their 70s and 80s. David Cameron of United Kingdom is 45, Barack Obama is just 51 years old, is that a very valid point that Chetan has made in his book that there is a huge disconnect between youth and elderly politicians.
Shivam Vij: Well I think youth doesn't matter in Indian politics because if you look at a young politician they are at the start line. So is Indian youth a different political entity, they think the same way a older politicians so that is why the status-quo exits.
Sagarika Ghose: The youth thinks in the same way as the older generations. Such as the young MPs, they are young by age but they are hundreds of years old in their thinking. Let's bring in Varun here, Varun do you believe when the presidential elections look place Pranab Mukherjee became President, number of people said he doesn't answer youth aspirations as APJ Abdul Kalam did because he reached out to the youth, He was someone who spoke the youth language. Do you think youth would like figures like APJ Abdul Kalam , many such out of the box figures in our politics.
Varun Agarwal: I definitely think that Sagarika, we need to look up to a leader which we don't have in this country yet. Someone we can look up to and say that is my leader. Abdul Kalam did that to some extent. And even now in spite of access to social media we don't have access to our political leaders where we can send them a tweet and post something on their Facebook page. And in spite of having these easy means of communications there is no initiative from their side. So I think we need someone who not only listens to us but also makes an attempt to connect with us.
Sagarika Ghose: The politicians must connect to Indians young people. Let me bring in Vishal, Vishal the youth often doesn't vote the urban metropolitan young is notoriously apathetic when it comes to elections. They just don't turn out and vote, do you think that is what youth should do increasingly to bridge the increase gap with the politics of the country.
Vishal Malhotra: Sagarika, I believe the youth unfortunately believe that their votes really doesn't count. We hear about all these scams where there are boot capturing, you really don't know whether you vote is going to the right person. So I guess that is one of the reasons. Why do you think Anna's movement really inspired us our imagination. We are so desperate for a corruption free society. What we want to do is live a life where we can reach our job in less than two hours. Why would I have to drive for two hours when I can reach in 15 minutes. I'm not reaching the government, I'm not blaming anything on anybody but I'm just saying there are so many easy ways of improving things. If I might make one point, if the people who we call leaders spend as much time and so much passion in running and doing well for us the country as much as they do getting re-elected in think we would be at least a 75 per cent better country, and be in a better position.
Sagarika Ghose: Hopefully the politicians are listening to the interesting young voices who are saying that we need a leader... you are not listening to us, you are not communicating with us. Now let's concentrate on education because education concerns the youth urgently and crucially. And Chetan writes a lot about education in his book. I believe we have a caller on the line, Siddharth from Delhi.
Siddharth: As our Indian schooling system is more confined to rote learning we see that talent and skills are getting sidelined somehow because the neighbours child is getting the first rank. So my question can be what can be a better move to broaden the approach of parents and the teachers.
Chetan Bhagat: You know, it is a very broad question but to answer it very briefly. You know, how much has the world changed in the last 30 years, it has changed dramatically, the way businesses are run has changed so much. And how much has our course materials changed, they have not been changed. We don't have a regular system of revising our course materials. And the people who design these courses are not from practical walks of like, one is that. The second is the mad race for marks that is basically there because we don't have good colleges. We have two-three per cent of kids who can get into good colleges and the rest is a steep decline.
Sagarika Ghose: There is a twitter question here, "Chetan you propagate a lot on learning English to get good job can only English guarantee innovation and excellence?" - From Jitender Jain
Chetan Bhagat: No it doesn't. Innovation and excellence are independent of language and you can speak any language and if you are innovative you will do well in life. But the fact of the matter is English has dramatically altered standards of living. There are surveys, same intelligence, same marks but somebody we speaks English get salary four times.
Sagarika Ghose: Very quickly Shivam, there is a big problem, the small elite that gets big education the huge simply don't get it.
Shivam Vij: Absolutely, that is absolutely the case. For which the government education system has to do something.
Sagarika Ghose: And Varun what about the cut-offs, you know, school cut offs which lays a huge pressure on the young. 95 per cent and above you need to get into Delhi University.
Varun Agarwal: Well the emphasis is only on success. It is okay to fail once in a while that will result in far more successful people.
Sagarika Ghose: That is a very good point. What wisdom is in our young people, if you fail once in a while that will lead to may successful people. Vishal last word to you do you believe education system doesn't serve well to the youth's.
Vishal Malhotra: I don't agree with that, I think, there is a big section of education system which needs improvement however, I know today there are lot of more systems that are available that were not available 30 years ago which takes us to a different practical way of thinking. And let's look at the bright side also we are young, we get knocked down we will get up again.
Chetan Bhagat: I am a very optimistic guy. For me the glass is half full and it is going to get fuller and fuller.
Sagarika Ghose: So as far as the Indians are concerned the glass is half full. Thank you very much indeed.