, , , , , , ,

                     “Yeh ishq ishq hai, ishq, ishq” …so goes a famous qawwali from an old Hindi movie (Barsaat Ki Raat) that discusses love ,ishq, in great detail. When I was a child and had an unrelenting urge to just keep on fiddling with something that did not benefit me or even intrigue me in any way, my dad had his own rendition of this age old classic for me –“Yeh itch itch hai, itch itch” – not itch as in scratching but itch as in a longing restlessness to do something. This habit has not died down even now as I discovered much to my cost.

                         I happened to read Mr Chetan Bhagat’s five tips to women on Women’s Day and could not resist but post my reflections on. All would be fine if it ended there but no. I had to dig up and read many of his old blog posts- WHY?I ask myself. I don’t even like his writings or his sermons and advices. “Yeh itch itch hai, itch itch”…. thats all that I could come up by way of an answer.

                        What I have realised is that Mr Bhagat is obsessed with numbers. Look at the title of his books – “Five point someone”; “One night @ the call centre”; “The 3 mistakes of my life”; “2 states”; “Revolution 2020”. Even his blog posts are loaded with numbers.“Five things women need to change about themselves” being a case point and the other post that compelled me to write today- “Open Letter to The Indian Change Seekers” – too has a lot of numerical juggling in it. Maybe it’s the background in investment banking talking. And yes, he’s very fond of “open letters”. But more on that another day.

                           To be fair, I haven’t read most of his works. “Five point someone” I just about managed to run through; “One night @the call centre” made me panic that the night I had picked it up would be the end of me and as for “3 mistakes of my life”, all I knew was that picking up that book was one definitive mistake of my life. And thereafter regardless of the lucrative price tag his books carry, I never ventured to buy another one. Only that I chanced to come across his blog and the irresistible itch to read them took over.

           After  reading the advise he gave to women on the auspicious occasion of Women’s Day, I came across his “Open letter to the Indian Change Seeker(http://blogs.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/The-underage-optimist/entry/open-letter-to-the-indian-change-seekers)  inspired by the aftermath of the Delhi gang rape that saw unprecedented protests. Bad news for the protesters, who in any case, have long since gone back to their humdrum lives- Mr Bhagat doesn’t approve of the way they had gone about their protests. In order to make his point clear he goes on to “explain” India.  Move over A.L. Basham,  Bipan Chandra. Mr Bhagat is here to do the honours!

                   What follows is a mind boggling jugglery of numbers wherein he divides the Indian population into 4 categories and in this whole “Threes” and “Fours” game pretty much lost me. The point I think he was trying to make was that the “Threes”, i.e. the upper middle class, the likes of him and you and me, are using our new found power for self serving purposes just like the “Ones” (our political masters) and the “Twos” ( Industrialists and Capitalists) have been doing all along. The “Three” need to include, take along and also fight for the cause of the “Four”, the vast majority of our country who live in abysmal conditions. To make any change happen, the “Threes” should fight for the causes of the “Four” also- “only then is when true change will happen” he proclaims.

        No doubt there is some merit in his arguments. A modern sensibility has to include and at the same  time make concessions for traditional and conservative attitudes. Any change or revolution from the grass root level alone can work. To that extent we all would agree with him though there is nothing new that he is saying. However what intrigued me in the entire piece is a “holier than thou” attitude. He talks of the “Threes” misusing their media power for their ends. Who doesn’t? Writing, publication, success are today more about being media savvy than actual merit. He ought to know that better than anyone else. The one true test of any great literature is the test of time. How his works fare there is yet to be seen and well, anyone’s guess.

        What has he, whom Time magazine called “one of the 100 most influential people in the world” done for the “Fours”? It is one thing to be speaking on National Development in air conditioned halls of various conclaves and entirely another to be actually contributing towards the welfare of mankind, number tags being irrelevant.

                Media is what made him into a youth icon as it did many others. Isn’t it a tragedy of our times than none of these icons are willing to accomplish anything beyond pay token lip service? He himself says that he is a “Three”. How about preaching by doing? Why not set an example for us lesser mortals by accomplishing something for the masses?

       Why have I zeroed down on him and no one else? No it’s not simply my “itch” to do so but because he,unlike others, is one of the “most influential 100s” worldwide. And because I feel upset when people, who excel in one particular field ,assume that they are the know all and be all of everything else as well. Apparently he was a successful investment banker and thereafter became the best seller author though, to my mind, with mediocre novels. Does that also make him an authority on every matter and every ill  that plagues an individual or class or society? Even if so, why not preach by example? And why not, for a change, think out of the box? Churning out platitudes in different phrases doesn’t take much. Following them through does.Or maybe he doesn’t really mean anything? Maybe writing these posts is as much an “itch” for him as reading them has become for me. And this “itch” is a very dangerous thing-“yeh itch itch hai, itch, itch.”