Too pop to study

Stephen Neil Gershom
NSoJ Bureau
The best selling author Chetan Bhagat,  who has been applauded by some and criticised by many, is in the news again. His book, ‘Five Point Someone’ has been chosen to be part of the syllabus at the Delhi University. The second-year
undergraduate students pursuing BA honours courses at Delhi University will have to study the book as will be a part of
their Popular Fiction paper in the general elective from the next academic year.
Why is it in the news again? Well, Chetan Bhagat’s writing has always been at the receiving end of critics, as it apparently does not have enough literary value according to many. Chetan Bhagat quit his corporate job as a banker abroad, moved to India and became a full-time writer and has proven to be one of the most popular writers too. His opinion pieces in major dailies are also a great draw and he has attained a stature of someone who can’t be just dismissed as a pulp fiction writer.
What the ‘many’ say might be true, as his books are simplified and written in the common man’s language which can be
easily be understood by all. Now while that is good enough to make it a best-seller, it might not just make the cut as
literature. When we look at the English syllabus taught in our schools and colleges, India has always had content from
foreign authors, and yes Shakespeare is the first name that comes to mind.
For an Indian born in the post colonial era also would have studied Shakespeare in the form of a play or at least as a
paraphrased text book.
Indian literature however, seems to have taken a backseat even though literary greats such as A K Ramanujan, Mulkraj Anand, Khushwant Singh laid the foundation of a new genre called Indian writing in English. Even though many of our
universities offer this as an option in their English departments along with American literature and Commonwealth
literature, the Indian authors writing in English are yet to make a mark in our mainstream education system. Needless to
say some of our writers have attained celebrity status at our literature festivals which have become global events and
even has foreign editions.
The English language which is a colonial legacy has made deep inroads in our education system and has attained the key
for a successful career path. Shakespearean literature is viewed by many, probably as elitist  however, according to
the website, The Quint, in his time and age, Shakespeare’s plays were considered suitable for predominantly working class audiences.
If we connect the dots, then probably we could see that the same might be happening today. Yes, we do have brilliant
English authors in India but would we study what critics call good literature or would the students study something
popular like ‘Five point someone’.

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