Book Review: What Young India Wants by Chetan Bhagat

I’ve been wanting to do a review on this book for a while now but I didn’t find the time, so I ended up pondering on what it felt like or more importantly what it made me feel. But before I go into the nitty-gritty details of this book of essays (and two short stories), I have to mention that while I appreciate Chetan Bhagat’s mass appeal, I’ve never really been “into” him at all. I always found his novels easy reads without much substance.

So, if I don’t like the author, why did I buy the book?
Because someone told me it was very good and because I had leafed through it before and it seemed like a good read.
When I bought this book, I expected essays that would change my perspective on contemporary India, its youth and their problems. I expected a radical new way of thinking that would maybe contribute towards some sort of working plan that would combat young India’s problems. The book is titled, “What Young India Wants” and that is a tall claim to make.
What Bhagat is basically saying is that his book will tell you what the youth want, what contemporary India wants, what we want…

It’s obvious now, that I had fairly high expectations. Not excessively high expectations because I never really liked his style of writing, but I had reasonably high expectations. Whether the book lived up to them is something I cannot answer because the book left me somewhat perplexed about how I should feel about it.

The book starts with a chapter called “My Journey” where he almost writes an autobiography of sorts which was actually very nice to read and while I may criticise his writing, I have definitely come to admire him as a person. After that, his writings are clubbed into different groups based on their content. The different groups were society, politics, youth and finally two short stories.

I generally found his style of writing in this book extremely simple and easy to grasp, which I suppose is his strength. After all, he is one of the most widely read Indo-Anglian authors right now. His essays were mostly good in the sense that he rightly highlighted issues that were relevant to young India today, but I found him too much of an idealist in most of his essays. He proposes the simplest of solutions to the most complex problems of our nation. While I have always admired optimistic people, I prefer writers to be more realistic, especially if they are writing non-fiction.

An example of his idealism in the book would be in an essay where he writes of the Bhopal tragedy of 1984. He points out that CEO of the company responsible was actually assisted out of the country while others responsible were punished only after 25 years. Bhagat suggests that the reason they got off so easily is because of the strong nexus between the government and corporations. Up till this point, I completely agree. But what I found rather unrealistic was that one of his solutions was to discourage politician-industrialist socializing. The reason I find this unrealistic is because political parties depend on funding from industrialists. We can’t make a law to ban politician-industrialist socializing. So, what does “discouraging” mean? And who is going to be the “discourager”? Which politician is going to be discouraged by a book or someone discouraging them, especially if their party funding depends on the industrialists?

And while many times, big corporations are seen as unethical, it is still important that industrialists also have a say in politics. After all, the government needs industrialists as much as they need the government. It’s the industries that will bring economic growth to our country.
In the book, I also found some of Chetan Bhagat’s essays on politics a bit biased. He has his own preferences and his writing reflects his loyalties which I may have found a bit frustrating. However, I also want to make it clear that I am not entirely dismissing this book.

There were many valid points that he made and I was particularly impressed by his two short stories. One of them addressed an issue that is very relevant to me right now and that is the issue of the unreasonably high cut-off marks that prestigious colleges in our country are demanding. Like any ambitious student, I am also working hard to make it to these colleges and while some people think 98% or 99% is fine as a cut-off percentage, I also agree that it’s a bit much. After all, there must be students scoring 90% or 85% in their board exams with very high potential and they also deserve to get into prestigious institutions. They deserve equally good education.

I agree with Bhagat’s view that the reason we have unreasonable cut-off marks today, is because the government has not invested in education in such a way that the number of high-status colleges would be proportionate to the number of students applying for college every year. India has way too many students and way too less quality institutions.
So just to conclude on my review, this book has me in two minds. Some things I find too simplistic and other things I agree with completely. But all in all, it’s a book worth reading if you like to discover new perspectives on issues relevant to our young nation. This isn’t a must read but it’s not a total waste either. It’s good if you have a long train ride like I did when I read this, it makes you think and I guess, that is good thing.

I’ve decided to start rating books out of 10 every time I do a book review. The rating will be just based on my personal view of it. Maybe, this will help you decide whether you will buy this book or not.

I also hear Chetan Bhagat has a newer book that’s similar to this. It’s called “Making India Awesome.” I am excited to get a hold of that and do a comparison soon. 🙂

Product details
• Paperback: 181 pages
• Publisher: Rupa Publications; 2nd edition edition (1 January 2014)
• Language: English
• Price: Rs 87
• Rating: 6.5/10

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