A seamy, distasteful world
Ever since Chetan Bhagat’s first book Five Point Someone appeared seven years ago, he has been the most successful Indian novelist ever and his popularity has grown steadily.
I found Five Point Someone unreadable, but quite enjoyed his next three books, and believed – while naively looking forward to the next one – that although he would never be accepted by anyone who expects a certain basic literary quality, his readability was improving.
Gladys laughed aloud many times when I read 2 States to her and naturally that enhanced my enjoyment - and improved my opinion - of it.
Revolution 2020 has an impressive theme: the alternative system of higher education in India. This is a system which, tragically, has far less to do with real education than with anxious students desperately seeking a means to escape their economic deprivation, and the nexus of politician-crooks who exploit this distressing but very real anxiety. Chetan Bhagat has done an excellent job of describing how the racket works. There are details of the sordid coaching classes which aim to prepare mediocre students for an education for which they have no aptitude. The book also exposes the sordid methods used in setting up large and glossy but fundamentally hollow ‘universities’ or institutes of technology, with the primary motive of profit.
Maybe it will help to protect the many young people who read this book from being duped; maybe it will help them to try and understand their own needs, abilities and aspirations and follow paths of education and career accordingly.
However, some of the situations it contains are ghastly and distasteful. No matter how ‘not ok’ the education system is, surely one’s personal values and behaviour are based only on one’s own choices. The heroine of the book, for instance, has two childhood friends and romances both alternately, but also sometimes at the same time. It appears as if she is swinging between them depending on whose material prospects are better at the moment. And when the hero of the book, in an attempt to nobly exit her life and leave her to the other, more decent and capable man – he does not honestly explain his thoughts and feelings to her. Instead, he fabricates a ludicrous and revolting tableau with the purpose of shocking her away from him forever. If it was an erotic scene Chetan Bhagat felt it necessary to introduce - surely he could have invented a more imaginative and wholesome one.
Chetan Bhagat says he writes primarily to entertain but also to create awareness. I did like the expose of the crooked education system, and, instead of wanting him to improve his language - we're actually quite lucky it isn't even worse - can’t help wishing that he would create better role models.