Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Cafe Commoners by Ritwik Mukherjee

Photo Credit HERE
When you pick up Rikwik Mukherjee’s  book, published by Partridge India, called Café CommonersDairy of a father for his daughter, you are at once intrigued. The name suggests, the typical Bangla ‘adda’, which is the most favourite pastime for any Bengali, across nations, and naturally you are anxious to read the content, your curiosity at its height. For an adda or what might be best termed as Café Commoners, is the most intellectual hub, where talks of news, politics, business, world affairs, art, literature and even love are the most appetizing concoction of discussions that take place.   

However, Mukherjee’s book is more than that.

Inspired by Pandit Nehru’s book, Letters from a father to a daughter, written from Naini Jail in Allahabad, to Indira Gandhi, then only 10 years old, the collection in Mukherjee’s book, cover a wide range of things which are more to do with human character, daily affairs, things he has seen around him, told in an easy, humourous manner is short 300 – 400 word count little stories. In the foreword, he mentions -  

“My diary features some such hilarious and not-so-hilarious priceless incidents and characters, recollected in tranquility.”

There are approximately 81 really lovely, tiny tales which will leave the reader enchanted. These stories may be read by anyone who enjoys the little ‘adda’ away from the real one in the quietness of their home, or on a travel. And the big plus is some fabulous illustrations by Ajitesh Kar (Sentu)
What struck me most about both books, Ritwik Mukherjee’s and Pandit Nehru’s is the longing to connect with their daughters. While one was in jail when he wrote those letters, Ritwik Mukherjee is a very successful financial journalist with an illustrious career with some of the top line newspapers and online portals. Hence, it might be deduced that like Nehru, he might have very little time with his daughter, which prompted him to write this book, so that she could connect with her father through the written word, which really is his forte. And view the world though his lens as she grows up. Such a noble idea!

What touched me most about the book is the human element there – while the stories are anecdotes and insightful, the ‘being present’ with the loved one, in this case, the daughter, was indeed the emotional aspect that made the book so meaningful to me.

Just 163 pages in all, Café Commoners, is available in Amazon.com in Paperback and eBook format.  
(R) The author Ritwik Mukherjee (L) Ajitesh Kar (Sentu)

Conversation with Ritwik Mukherjee

  1. Was writing Café Commoners a break from the normal daily journalistic articles you write about on business and trade?

    Ritwik: Yes. It is, It is completely different.
  2. How long did you take to write this collection?

    Ritwik: I have been writing these on and off. Normally whenever I come across an interesting character,/interesting event/anecdote that has some lesson to offer....either I write them immediately or after some time, recollecting them in tranquility.
  3. Why did you choose to self-publish when you are already an accomplished journalist?

    Ritwik: The opportunity to get it published by Patridge India just came my way.

To BUY Café Commoners  Click HERE  For eBook HERE

Wednesday, June 07, 2017

Chetan Bhagat is like Maggie noodles!

Photo Credit HERE
"Chetan Bhagat is like Maggi noodles; you know you shouldn't be reading his books, but you can't help it." - Samvit Sengupta, aged 20 years.

That really sums up all and everything about what the young generation, who thrive on his books and are crazy about him, feel towards him.

A rave among the youth, roughly around 17 - 25 years and sometimes extending to even 35 years, Chetan Bhagat who started to publish in roughly 2011, has a lot to be proud about. Up until now, he has over 6 titles and sold over 8 million books in 2008 says Wikipedia. He has 3 films already to his credit, which are adaptations from his books. Here, I will talk about Half Girlfriend which has been made into a film also.

Published by Rupa Publications, Chetan Bhagat has made Rupa and himself flush with funds. Fans swoon over him and as soon as his books are out, they go out of order too.

So what is it that makes his books hot favourite among the TG he is addressing.

Vivek Kumar Anand, age 30 years, avid reader and young digital professional says,

"Though his books cannot be termed as great works of literature, but they entertaining for sure, because, firstly, his books are short and simple and secondly, he writes about things you can connect with.”

He is right. The language is simple, in his books and not once have you got to open your dictionary to find a meaning of any word. The pages flow, sometimes with two words conversations throughout, without any paragraph of description. Indeed, the language is so simple, even a ten year old can read and understand it.

Can Chetan Bhagat, who has beaten the track record of Indian authors writing in English, and is a rave among the youth, across the globe – can his work be considered as contributing to English literature? Or does he do some amount of research before he commences to write his next novel? I think not. But he has his fundas right. The IIM -A, Business Management graduate knows his P’s well.

His product, the books are simple, no jargon, indeed, addressing the heart of the people he writes for, youth. He writes from India, so he is in the right place at the right time, when the world is looking at Indian authors writing in English. His publishers keep his book price low and affordable, like spending Rs 100 - 200 at a Cafe in India, over sandwich, juice, cookies, and shakes.  And he wears his CB tag well on Twitter and Facebook with 6,623,692 people like his fan page and 9.32 million FOLLOWERS on Twitter. He does not have a profile in LinkedIn, because he is not that 'sort of guy'. Nothing  'official' about him at all. He markets himself well, daily tweets, FB posts and a well kept 'regular' kind of website, which does not scare the hell out of anyone who is visiting it - it's not that intellectual type in fact. Not at all like a thorough bred 'English type' with élan and polish.

No wonder, he speaks to the heart of India and the world, where LCD or (lowest common denominator) is indeed, what sells the most. Every marketer knows that like the back of their hand.

But, shock of all shocks, while well known authors in India, who have etched out their place under the sun, have not been selected for English Literature study under the prestigious Delhi University where as our man CB has made it to the list, among others like J K Rowling and others.

Professor Ratna Raman who teaches English Literature in Delhi University says –

“I usually tell my students that if they read Chetan Bhagat it should remain a closely guarded secret. Why is it on pure syllabus? Because Bhagat is loved by the right wing and university course revisions are done by people nominated to committees headed by people with a vision of Akahand Bharat. Usually it is the students not studying literature Honours but choosing English Credit who will mention Bhagat as part of their reading references. “

I have read two of his books but while I remember the last I just read, I forget the last one. Exactly, the quality of Chetan Bhagat's books - Read it - HooHaa about it - Then forget it!

Half Girlfriend published in 2014, is a story of love between two people, who have both come on a Sport's Quota to be admitted to the elitist St Stephen's College, New Delhi, India. While she is from a super rich business family in Delhi, he is from Dumraon, Bihar. While she, Riya has had a fairly good education and speaks English fluently, he is the "Myself Madhav Jha - types". While her affluent family spread across the world, is not without its bits of shame and guilt which drives Riya the central character of the story to attempt a few mistakes, Madhav Jha we are told comes from a princely background although, the old tradition is long lost, after India became independent. But both characters are basket ball players and it is the game that finally brings the two together, quite early in the book. The book then meanders from off the basket ball court into the love play ground and Madhav Jha is ready to "make Bihar proud" by initiating sex, Riya comes close but finally retreats from actually going all the way. This happens ever so often, that once when she sneaked inside his room in the boys hostel, and refuses to give in to the sexual advances from his end, he threatens, "Deti hai to, varna kat le!" meaning, fuq me or fuq off!  ich The gross right-in-the-face demand, actually makes her leave Madhav and marry the riiya is back ch family friend's son, living in London, Rohan. But the marriage breaks and Riya is back but this time, a new game of hide and seek begins, this time in Bihar, where Riya has taken a job with Nestle and Madhav, obsessed with her, finds her. And again a cat and a mouse game starts between them. Madhav wants a relationship, Riya does not; Riya wants a friendship, Madhav wants more. So, even as the reader arrives at pg 44, Chetan Bhagat has brought out the ambiguity of relationship/friendship, the desire/resistance, the dance of the traditional women v/s the modern girl, in Riya, very well. For Madhav Jha, Riya is his obsession, his passion, he can't let go of. At a certain level, he wants to be the English speaking Riya like, person himself, just like the millions of people living in India, who speak Hindi, but aspire to be as confident as English speaking people, which is a quircky aspiration in their minds.

In that sense, what Professor Ratna Raman says becomes all the more important - allowing Chetan Bhagat in the Credit Course at Delhi University, makes those people who want to tout as English literature Graduates, although not as Honours students, would make non-English speaking students especially from states which are Hindi speaking, feel more empowered over the language. In fact, the author Chetan Bhagat himself says, in pg 149, Half Girlfriend, "And last, reading simple English novels, like, the one by the wo learn Englishriter, what's his name, Chetan Bhagat."

Chetan Bhagat’s TOP TEN TOOLS to learn English (pg 148-9, Half Girlfriend)

  1. YouTube videos of famous speeches.
  2. Watching English movies with subtitles.
  3. English-only days – no Hindi conversation allowed.
  4. Working on speech content in Hindi first.
  5. Recording a English voice diary on phone through the day.
  6. Thinking in English.
  7. Watching television news debates in English.
  8. Calling call centres and choosing the English option.
  9. Reading out English advertisements on street hoardings
  10. Reading simple English novels.

Going back to the novel, Riya once again disappears from Madhav's life and in a series of unbelievable and highly fantacised development of the novel, is found very filmy like, by Madhav Jha at the last minute, in the last day of his 3-month Internship with The Gates Foundation in New York! The reader is much relieved when finally, at last, the two meet emotially and physically inside Riya's apartment in New York and Madhav is able to "make Bihar proud."

Samvit Sengupta explains, "It all began with the TV serials, F.R.E.I.N.D.S and How I Met Your Mother, when people in my generation were and are influenced and want to emulate the life of the people in the movie."

And that is what CB, has caught on to as well. Did I say, Chetan Bhagat does not dive too deep, into researching for his books? I was wrong!

Well done, @chetan_bhagat. You have one more Follower on Twitter and one more LIKE on your facebook.com/chetanbhagat.fanpage. I will be checking you out on www.chetanbhagat.com

Click HERE to Buy Half Girlfriend

And HERE is the Promo of the Film