Chetan Bhagat Curated

Author & Screenwriter

CURATED BY :  


  • How was your journey from Class 10th to IIT?

  • Anything about your childhood that made you who you are?

  • Your first book got rejected 9 times, what kept you going?

  • What does India mean to you?

    India forms a huge part of my identity – I’m one of the few people who got the opportunity to do really well in life, and whatever I am today is because of India. On a personal level, India gave me the best colleges to attend – with worldwide recognition – and because of this, I could get a job in the real world, in investment banking. In the second phase of my life, India gave me recognition as a writer, and a lot of popularity in a different career. For me, this wouldn’t have happened if I wasn’t Indian. I couldn’t have had those colleges, or I couldn’t have had the reach as an author that I do if I wasn’t born in India. At a broader level, India is one sixth of the world’s population – and a population who are trying to come-up in life. It’s happenstance that in 1947, certain political boundaries were drawn – that wasn’t the decision of the people, but rather people making decisions. Just think,… 1/6th of humanity that still has a standard of living a lot below the developed world, so they’re just trying to get better and just be better people and have more money to progress….

  • What is the difference between India as you see it, versus the India projected in media internationally?

    People who talk about India typically come from a certain background, or have a certain view of things… they have also capitalised on what sells about India… and that reinforces the outside image… after a while, it doesn’t really matter what India actually is! India in the mind of the ‘The West’ feeds into the biases that are projected of India, and that’s based on what people think will go viral. A snake charmer? That will go viral…. A software programmer? Not so much…. My work depends on knowing real India, not the ‘exotic’ stereotype.

  • What is the power of religion and materiality in today’s India?

    Indians are very religious people, and very family-oriented. I would also say that Indian culture is very emotionally driven, with less of a focus on individualism. The political boundaries of India were only drawn 70 years ago, but our religions have been with us for thousands. We have new political movements on the rise, but it will take a long time for new culture to displace thousands of years of embedded heritage. India is a place of very different people and cultures – the North East is different from the South, and the South is different from Kashmir – but ultimately, everyone just wants a better life. I don’t know of religion compensates for money, or whether money compensates for religion – but what I do know is that people with wealth in India are still quite religious. People obviously desire material objects, things and have aspirations for a better life or a better quality of life – but that’s everywhere, not just India.

  • How is culture changing in India?

    The internet has been a game-changer for culture in India. Whether you look at consumerism, liberal lives & values, fashion trends, changes in sexual attitudes….. I don’t think it’s a Western versus Eastern culture issue, but one of emotive society (which is naturally how human beings are). Human beings are naturally liberal about these things, human beings are naturally in pursuit of wealth and in pursuit of love and in pursuit of pleasure. I think that happens more in the West or in developed places because it’s more accepted there. India is technically a free society because of our structure as a democracy – but there have been a lot of taboos that have come with religion, and those taboos are getting questioned and going away… yet I think the stage we are at is one where people are not openly acknowledging their desires, and are keeping a certain façade of Indian culture that ‘we don’t do these things’, but a lot of those things are happening beneath the covers. India is conservative on the outside, but becoming more liberal inside. A lot of my stories are about the double life that younger India has to lead…. The conflict between conservatism and liberal values…. That is the story that so many of our people face, and what they connect with in my writing. Media and literature are playing a huge role in cultural change too. I remember when I wrote my first book and people said, ‘I really like your book, but it would have been great if you didn’t show her having premarital sex….’ Fifteen years later? Nobody says that. In fact, in one of my books I have an Indian girl who has a lot more sexual agency, she is more forthright and confident demanding what the guy does, ‘yeah… you may be satisfied but I’m not…’ – fifteen years ago, those narratives would have been unthinkable…. there’s a lot more acceptance, not just in my stories but in movies also, of a female lead for example, who is maybe engaging in pre-marital sex and she’s still lovable, and likeable. It wasn’t there before. You had to be pristine to be likeable.

  • What worries you about contemporary India?

    As we speak today, we’re in the middle of an election and the political battle-lines are drawn, and politicians don’t mind exploiting them. In reality, India is not as divided as you might think… hundreds of millions of Muslims live and work in India, they are friends with people in and out of their community, and just live normal lives like anyone else…. When magazines put covers like, ‘Divider in Chief’ (describing Narendra Modi) it’s really unhelpful. We naturally will tend to read media or engage with dialogue that affirms our hypotheses, rather than looking at the truth. India has always been a multicultural place, and because of social media – certain divisive tendencies are getting exaggerated… this is happening in the UK and USA too. If we look at the United States, a country that I admire for its creativity, its business orientation and innovation… a country that has led the way in political correctness and liberal values… but a country that can still elect Trump.

  • How did you find a voice for change in your writing?

    Becoming a fiction writer happened almost as a happy coincidence, and India has given me a lot- it’s been very good to me. I felt that with my education, understanding and perspectives, there was a lot more I could do than write love stories. I dipped a toe in the water and found a lot of people were continuing to read my opinions and analyses as well as my stories and I felt that there was a disconnect in India between people who express themselves in their local language versus English, creating an elitist bubble. I realised that people like me are part of a small group who could bridge that gap. I believe that I should do things which are good for my country… and that’s difficult sometimes, it’s much easier to get a fan following if you have a right-wing or left-wing narrative…. Q: How is social media polarising opinion?

  • How is social media polarising opinion?

    On twitter and social media, if you take a position it’s there forever. It’s difficult for people to say, ‘hey, you know what? …. I see things differently now, I think I’ve changed my mind…’ – once you say Trump is bad, you have to keep saying it… and the same if you think he’s good. Social media holds people hostage to their position, and stops them having free minds. You see people everyday who just retweet stuff that supports a singular opinion, and ignoring stuff that opposes it – it just makes people lose credibility eventually. We have to find a middle-ground….

  • How did you decide to become a writer?

    Writing was a hobby, I never thought it would be my career. When I first started, many publishers and people rejected my books… so I didn’t even think they were that good! I also struggled to find people who had been able to make it their full-time living… it genuinely never felt like it would be my life. I’m very lucky and sometimes, when I walk into a bookstore and see 30,000 different books? I feel a lot of gratitude that people choose mine. People do ask me how I want to be remembered… The truth is, I don’t want to be remembered, I want to be missed. I want to make an emotional connect with my readers in India. They may not say that Chetan is the best author, but I want them to say Chetan is my author.

  • Do you keep the 'Reader' in mind while writing?

    Not really. When I am writing, I have to like the story and am in tune with the characters. That’s all.

  • Were you clear about the career choice you wanted to make after graduating?

  • Do you think your writings ever changed someone’s life?

    That’s for people to say. At the least, they have entertained people for short periods of their lives. At best, they have made people think and change a little.

  • What inspires you to write books?

    I write because it is my passion. I like to express my creativity and views, and it feels nice to be accepted.

  • Is romance essential for a book to be commercially viable? How much do you think romance influences the success of a novel?

    Not really. There is no such rule or formula. There was a punctuation book called Eats, Shoots and Leaves that became a worldwide hit and it was a book about grammar!

  • How would you compare the effective writing skills of emerging Indian young writers with well established foreign writers?

    Obviously, well established writers are ahead of the game than emerging ones. Domestic or International, it is a bit unfair to compare someone starting out to someone already established.

  • Do you Google for writing?

    I google for research yes, especially for columns. For books and stories, I prefer to visit a place and do research.

  • Despite your commercial success, what is that one thing that you still yearn for?

    I yearn for peace and balance in my life, and to create truly amazing wonderful stories that enthrall people.

  • Critics love to hate you. Do you take them seriously? Do you think that they have a point when they discuss your writings?

    It depends on the kind of critic and the feedback offered. Sometimes, I do take it seriously as they have a point. Many times, they don’t. I don’t pay attention to baseless personal attacks for instance.

  • According to you, what are the three things that stop India from developing at a faster rate?

    A lack of consensus, divisions within us and no collective responsibility for the greater good.

  • Which is the best Novel you have ever read and wished it was your work?

    There is no ‘one’ best novel. Each good book moves you in a different way. I wish I wrote Animal Farm though

  • If the story/book is good then why is marketing important?

    Because there is just too much content out there. If marketing helps, why not do it?

  • How was your College life?

  • How was your latest book Making India Awesome conceived?

    You know I normally write fiction and I write stories but I have also been writing columns and they have got a good response. They are discussed and analysed, some people agree with my views and some don’t, but the columns are popular too, along with the books. So, I felt like I should do more. Three years ago, I did What Young India Wants which was a collection of my columns. It did remarkably well. We never expected it to do so well, since my audience mostly likes love stories. But I had just done it because it adds to my body of work. Now, we are at a time when we have elected a new government, we have protested on the streets and we have done everything. But there is extreme polarisation. On Twitter people are fighting, in Parliament people are fighting and it doesn’t function, on television people are fighting but there’s no solution anywhere. So I felt we are losing track and are still in election mode. There’s my side and your side, but we are done with elections – at least for the next three years. We should work on the issues that need attention. It’s not always a person or a party that can take the baton by itself.

  • Is it a fascination with politics that makes you write these columns and books?

    It’s a fascination with change and society, and the change in society. I realised that when you are talking about society, politics is inevitable. You can’t separate the two. You need politics to effect a change. I find it fun to observe people and it can be at an individual level or at a mass level. It kind of ties in with my other stuff.

  • How do you rate yourself after 10 years of writing and juggling with all the other things that you have managed to do?

    I am very happy with the way things have gone. I consider myself very, very fortunate because writers don’t get noticed. It’s a tough profession and it’s hard for a writer to make an impact like this. Not everything I have done is right. But, largely, I have managed to get what I wanted, so I am very satisfied. The challenge now is to stay relevant and come up with new things that excite me and my readers.

  • You have been praising the current government lavishly and supporting the prime minister. Do you still consider yourself neutral?

    I don’t know. I have written against the Parliament lockdown, the porn ban, and many other things. After the Delhi elections, I wrote what Modi should do. I try to be neutral, but it’s very hard to achieve. The attempt is there, but that doesn’t mean that you never praise someone. Being neutral doesn’t mean that you have to show hatred for everyone. It is an active kind of neutrality. Like the bhakts article that I wrote, which got me so much flak. How is that a pro-Modi or a pro-BJP article? If I were so partial, I would not have such a strong voice. People would know ki ye unka hai (he belongs to them). The credibility comes from neutrality. It doesn’t make sense for me to take sides, it’s just bad business.

  • In this book you talk about violence against women. So what do you think young Indians should do to make women feel more comfortable and equal in a society that discriminates against women so often?

    There’s a whole section in the book full of these issues. There is no quick fix pithy solution that I can offer you on this. Gender rights is a big issue for any society and India is no exception. We won’t become an awesome country for women quickly because we don’t have that. We could be rich like Arab countries but they don’t have gender rights and they don’t pay heed to women’s issues. In Saudi Arabia, for example, you can’t go shopping without a man. We don’t want to become that. So you cannot only talk about economy. You have to talk about these issues. It comes down to women deciding that they need to assert themselves and it comes down to men slowly being educated about the fact that this is not how it’s going to work. You men are not going to be above and they are not going to be our subordinates. Aise nahi hoga abhi (It won’t work this way). Things are going to be different and men aren’t going to be happy about it.

  • You have often said that you write to make an impact on the minds of young people, and you want to change the way they think. What impact do you think you have made with books such as Half Girlfriend?

    Yes, they do make the right impact. There’s an entire India which will relate to Madhav Jha, a boy who doesn’t speak English. He’s under-confident, he makes it slowly in life, and how he makes it. It’s good for them to read about a character like that, who changed so much and rose above the odds. Half Girlfriend, for example, talks about Riya who is a divorcee and this boy marries a divorcee. It’s very subtle but it suddenly becomes okay for the hero to marry a divorcee. So it nudges people into thinking: So what if she’s a divorcee? There’s no button which you could press and you will change. Half Girlfriend brings up issues like there are no toilets in our schools in rural India. How would people know that people don’t send kids to school because there are no toilets? It’s a book at the end of the day. It’s not a cure for cancer.

  • So how much emphasis do you put in marketing your books?

    I don’t need to. I just need to put on Twitter that I am writing a book, if you can call that marketing. I have zero budget for marketing. I have never spent anything on it at all. If Amazon does, I am lucky that they are doing it for me.

  • Now your role has shifted from being part of the academic IIT-IIM elite to being a Page 3 personality. Do you like this better?

    I am in the entertainment business. I try to avoid Page 3. I am Page 1 to 300, I am a book-writer. But this is the trajectory. Of course I have changed roles. It’s not that it doesn’t take any brains to create entertainment. You leave your brains at home to watch entertainment, but people who create it are very smart people. So it’s wrong to assume that only engineers and doctors are the smart guys, and that the people who are creating the things that millions of people are consuming are not smart. If you ask me, I find it more challenging academically.

  • You have certainly turned fiction writing into something more profitable than banking. Are you laughing all the way to the bank?

    I feel a tremendous sense of power that whatever I write is read by millions of people of the younger generation and that has empowered me to become bolder in my fiction writing. I have started writing columns in English and Hindi newspapers which, of course, aren’t fiction. I take up topical issues and the response is also empowering. It feels like the power of the pen is back.

  • How do you work? Do you produce drafts and write with regular discipline every day?

    Earlier I would write in fits and starts because I was working in a bank; it was very stressful to find time. Having left my job to become a full- time writer. I’m more disciplined. Typically I write when my kids go to school. I drop them to school, come back and write; but when they get back home, I can’t concentrate. I do lots of drafts. My editors also make points like, ‘Chetan, for your readership the word “cognizable” may not work.’ I know my critics think I’m a lowbrow hack but . . .

  • What was the reason for your under confidence?

  • Your outreach with four novels has in fact been so massive that you have actually given up a very well-paid career in banking to become a full-time writer. Any regrets?

    I don’t think there are any regrets. I’m a happier person. Of course I make less money than what I would have with two jobs. But writing for me, compared to a well-paid banking career, is an incredible jn experience. What is money really? Someone once said that whatever money you keep in the bank the day you die is the extra work you have done. It’s money you shouldn’t have.r^There’s no point.

  • Three of your four novels have been turned into screenplays. Do you see books-into-films as the bigger opportunity?

    I want to reach out to the public, knowing that Indians love films, the answer is yes. It’s a good avenue to earn more and it’s a challenge for me. Now I am more involved in the film adaptations of my books because I’ve left my job. And I also want to learn to write scripts. At the time of 3 Idiots I couldn’t. I wasn’t even in India. Now I want to naster scripts. In fact for two years I will only do screenplays.

  • As a professional screenplay writer will you write original stories or do you hope to write to order for film-makers?

    That’s a very good question because no matter how commercial I may seem, I have written my stories in my own way. Someone may say that a superstar wants a script, can you write it and, I would say no, I can’t. I have not sold my soul. Broadly, Chetan Bhagat is going to use Bollywood, and Bollywood is not going to use Chetan Bhagat.

  • What is your present state of mind?

    I want to find new meaning in life. I want to get out of this maya of fame, money and achievement. I only created it but I don’t want to get too attached to it. It is like creating a house. Once you have the house, you can keep on embellishing it but you should know when to move on.

  • Your first book was about three college students. Your latest is about a country of 1.3 billion people. Your target audience, clearly, has changed. Was this planned?

    The first book was just me writing a story about my college mates, hoping it will get read by a few IITians. I never thought it will become so big. Now, I have a pan-India audience. So, obviously, I can now experiment more. I even have an audience that says, ‘whatever Chetan writes, we’ll read’. So, I could write on dolphins and they may pick it up. They are just interested on how I think, what’s my take on things. All my fiction novels are about national issues actually. In Five Point Someone, for instance, I didn’t intend to write about an issue but luckily I’d touched upon a big issue: education. I thought I should have a condensed version of my take on issues, which is India Positive.

  • So, at what point did you intentionally start writing about ‘issues’?

    After the first book. I wrote [my second book] One Night at the Call Centre because I wanted to write about call centres. My third book, The 3 Mistakes of My Life was about Godhra violence and communalism. 2 States was on the North-South divide. Revolution 2020 is about private education.

  • Have you felt like going back to the Five Point Someone zone, where you don’t intend to write about an ‘issue’?

    My last book, The Girl in Room 105, is a murder mystery. So, I am doing it. But I am older now. There’s a charm in being a buffoon in 25. But when you are 45, you should age a little gracefully. I am also not the same person I was. So, you don’t relate to those kind of frivolousness and you want to be a little more serious. Having said that, my books will always have humour.

  • Has it become difficult for you, over the years, to filter constructive criticism from trolls?

    Criticisms used to bother me a lot. Five years ago, I was more sensitive. Maybe I was not secure about my position. It doesn’t bother me anymore. I have been writing for 15 years now. So, I know what I do. I know my weaknesses. But if there’s something positive, I have become better at taking it.

  • Can you mention some of your criticisms, which you think are valid?

    When I wrote Half Girlfriend there were criticisms about the plot of an underdog boy of a small town trying to get a girl… so, I changed gears. I wrote a book called One Indian Girl, about a girl, who is an investment banker in New York. I changed the setting, changed the premise. I reinvented the Chetan Bhagat story. Then, there was this criticism that I am doing too many love stories. So, I wrote a murder mystery. Those all came from feedback.

  • How did you crack Rupa as your publisher?

  • Since the success of 3 idiots, almost all of your books have been converted to movies. Now, when you write fiction, do you write with the idea that it’ll be made into a movie?

    Not at all. Readers read that way because there have been so many adaptations now -- they think ‘this book will also become a movie’. I have to make sure readers enjoy the book and it becomes a bestseller. If I have to make a movie, then I can adapt it into a screenplay, I can change things. Why should I think about the movie while writing the book? I write what I want to write.

  • What books do you read?

    I read a lot of mysteries, especially over the last few years. Agatha Christie… I revisited Sherlock Holmes to see how it was actually written; I’d read it as a casual reader but now I read it as a writer. I like non-fiction. I read [Nassim] Nicholas Taleb’s books. I am reading a book called Skin In the Game, then there’s this book called Locked Room Mysteries.

  • Where do you get your ideas from?

    People. Because I write columns, because I write about national issues. I do motivational talks, events. I am plugged into India more than other writers. So, I get a sense of what happens in the country. I travel. I was in Bihar. I saw the state of English there… that’s how Half Girllfriend got written.

  • How do you decide which idea gets turned into a book?

    What I do is, if there’s something that hits me and I keep thinking about it... So, there’ll be 50 ideas, initially. But after a month, I’ll only be thinking about five. After three months, only one. Then, it will crystallise in my head.

  • Can you explain your writing process? Has it changed over the years?

    I plan my books. My plots are tied, it’s a page turner. I think about the themes, the stories. I do this for about six months. The writing process takes another six months. The editing process comes after this. End to end, it takes about one and a half to two years. This is the frequency of my books. Over the years, it’s become more efficient. But writing never gets easier.

  • The next book will be a murder mystery too?

    Yeah. People liked [the last book]. They liked the Sherlock Holmes kind of approach… but also with a bit of fun, not too serious, not gory. So, I might have some fun doing that again.

  • Do you want to intentionally change the genres you write?

    I want a Chetan Bhagat genre. I don’t want to be in a genre. I want to find a genre. It’s very hard actually to put my books in a genre. Are they romance? Are they social issues? Are they humour? It’s a Chetan Bhagat book. And, you’ll know it if you have read the book.

  • About your books...you've probably been asked this but why do all your books have numbers in their titles?

    I think it's just a tribute to my past when I was a banker and engineer. When I was in a bank all I dealt with was numbers. I miss my banking sometimes...Especially at times when there are exciting things happening (in the finance markets) like now, when the Facebook IPO is being launched. I miss my banking colleagues with whom I could discuss valuations and whether to subscribe or not. Of course I can Google all of that, but there's nothing like being in the bank and analysing how the financial markets react when the IPO is launched etc. There are some exciting moments in finance and I do miss them.

  • You mention miracles that have happened in your life. What are they?

    Well, my entire career has been full of miracles. Getting into an IIT or an IIM is no less than a miracle. In my entire family no one had ever got into an IIT or IIM. Especially from the background I come from -- very simple, middle class upbringing -- these are no less than minor miracles. I didn't have a very good GPA, but I still got into an IIM and that was another miracle. And I made it to IIM-A, not just any other IIM! In my first job, the whole bank closed down and I was fired. I ended up joining Goldman Sachs! I was the first person with a purely Indian education to join Goldman Sachs. Then I write this book that no one wanted to publish at first and it becomes the highest-selling book in the country and someone makes a movie out of it and it becomes the highest selling movie of all time. Not only that, there is a certain interest in me as a person. First, it's hard to get published. Then, it's hard to be a bestseller. Then it's hard to be known. And then it's hard to do it over and over again. It's hard then to graduate from a storyteller to an opinion maker and kind of survive. I can't say I am passing out with flying colours but I am surviving. It has made a difference. The editorials I have written have been noticed. My life has been full of miracles -- to be able to leave the bank at 35 and be able to do what I wanted to do... it has always worked out. I wanted to be a motivational speaker and reach the youth, and it has worked out. I wanted to write editorials that people read and I am able to that. So, God has been kind to me. I am one of those freaks of nature... born in India where life is supposed to be hard and it's not been so hard for me. And now you may again call me presumptuous if I say my life has been full of miracles...

  • Would you say you're still thick-skinned as you once said you were?

    It's a process. Everyone gets hurt on occasions. I am not perfect but I am a lot better than many people. I am trying to be less thick-skinned but I'm trying to have more depth as a person so that opinions don't affect me.

  • How was the experience of your first book getting published?

  • Do you believe you are humble?

    Well, let's just say I try to be. But it also depends who you compare me with. Compared to a lot of celebrities I am far more approachable. It's for others to judge and them to tell. People who are around me and know me, one of the qualities they mention is that I am humble but I can't say how it is coming across in the virtual world. I suppose when you have 700,000 followers the very act of having those many followers means that you're not very humble.

  • Can you describe the day you got the JEE result?

  • How has IIT affected your life?

  • You are quite active on social media, how did it start?

  • What do your parents think about your books?

  • Why do you think West Delhi is stereotyped?

  • Do you think your book's popularity is a reason why 2 States got good reception?

  • Do you prefer writing the screenplay for the movie?

  • When did you find your true calling?

  • You left a secure (though it isn't as safe afield these days!) and a lucrative career to pursue the writing dream, a life that is notoriously unpredictable. What helped you make the decision? How long did it take to make the break? Any regrets?

    I think the continued response to all my books and the rising fan base made me feel that ultimately I meant to something other than working in the bank. I still kept working all the way until three books became bestsellers and two movies based on them went on the floor. A top psychiatrist in Delhi told me that my impact on young minds is tremendous, and I have the power to influence them on how they live their life if I want to take it. Hence, I should stop positioning myself as just a funny author. That conversation had an impact. The ‘safety’ was the main reason to stay on, as were the middle-class upbringing values that you just don’t quit an MNC bank job. I think the final point came when I was able to overcome the lure of money. I worked for a long time internally on letting go of my attachment and identity to the amount of money I made. When that happened, the bank job seemed even more pointless. There were things I wanted to do apart from books (like the talks and columns) and the job was preventing me from doing it.

  • Did it help that your wife is a successful professional in her own right?

    My wife’s job, ironically, was not a factor in favour of quitting but quite otherwise. My wife working creates even more pressure for me to remain successful. I would though say that one big reason for me to leave was our kids, as with both of us working and me having this extra-large extracurricular activity, the kids had no time from us.

  • If things don't stay as good as they have been thus far — if your next books don't sell as much the previous ones, for instance — do you have a Plan B?

    There is some sort of a plan B, but frankly, life doesn’t work that way. I’ll just have to figure out plan-B if the need arises, but also only when the need arises. I have enough degrees to get me some employment. Dealing with the lack of writing success — well, I think I will devote myself to spiritual activity more.

  • What, in your opinion, are the ingredients of your personal success story? How much of your success do you attribute to having the right skills and instincts, to doing the hard grind, to being the right person with the right book at the right time, to very intelligent marketing and pricing?

    It’s all of the above points you mentioned, and yes — luck and randomness are a big part of it. I think I have a talent to entertain, believe in what I do and I do try my best to care for people. The combination comes through in my writing or whatever else I do, and people have given me a chance. However, that still does not explain why I am read the most. That comes from luck, or if you want to be romantic about it, destiny. We also are in a winner takes all society, where the winner gets a lot more attention than the next guy, who may not be very different.

  • (We’re trying to go beyond the hoary old 'where do you get your ideas?' question.) What inspires you? And what helps you decide your subjects?

    I think the Indian middle-class life, or the so-called ‘Indian way’ inspires me. Indian values are a mixed bag. We are caring, loving, ambitious, proud people. At the same time, we are prejudiced, live in the past and are cynical. The new generation is changing, and fast. It allows for very interesting stories. I get a lot of ideas on what I observe, but everything cannot be turned into a book. Whichever idea keeps knocking in my head a hundred times over, wins.

  • Do you have several ideas in various stages of completion at any one point, or is it one book at a time?

    Normally it is one book at a time. I may have many ideas, but it is difficult for me to ration my thoughts towards different ideas.

  • What's a day in the life of Chetan Bhagat like? If that is, there is a typical day?

    When I was working, the days were more typical, but now they are not. I travel 25% of the time, across the country giving talks. When home, I am now a house husband. I make sure the kids and wife go to school and office on time respectively, along with their lunchboxes. Then, I have a few hours of peace before the kids come back and I write. Once the kids come back, I spend time with them over lunch. In the afternoons, I do work of lesser concentration such as emails. I am not a workaholic and do not like to work more than seven hours a day. In the evening, I’ll go with kids to the park or go for a walk. My wife returns in the evening and we all have dinner together. As you can see, it is pretty unremarkable. Of course, the normal day can easily be derailed if one of my directors needs me to come for script work or if my publisher calls for something else.

  • You speak of doing around 50 talks around the country every year. You write regular columns. You keep in touch with your fans via your site and social media. How the heck do you fit it all in and still get the books done?

    Yes, it is a tough balance. I have limited myself to four talks a month, or roughly once a week, though mostly I combine a couple of them on one trip. I also write my column once in two weeks, as a weekly one would be difficult for me. When I am writing a book, I withdraw from my blog and networking sites – something my fans are not too happy about but ultimately understand. Right now, I am not writing anything as 2 States just came out, so I have time to tweet. I also plan to slow the pace of my book releases. Four books in five and a half years are quite fast.

  • Who are your icons?

    There are three sides to me. There is Chetan the entertainer — and my icons there are from the entertainment industry — whether it is Aamir Khan, Farhan Akhtar, Woody Allen, Rob Reiner. Then there is Chetan the writer — Hemingway, Orwell, RK Narayan would be icons there. And then there is Chetan the reformer — Mahatma Gandhi to Obama, there is a long list there.

  • Specific to writing, who are the writers you seek to emulate?

    I think it is better to emulate different qualities from various icons, as it is rare that one person will have everything you aspire to be. At least that is the case for me.

  • How did your wife deal with you writing 2 States?

  • What does Chetan Bhagat read when he's writing? What does he read when he's between books? For fun? To improve his mind?

    When I am writing, I avoid reading other books, especially fiction as it will impact my writing. In between books, I try to read as my fun books as possible. I also love non-fiction books such as Black Swan, Freakonomics. And of course, I love watching movies and reading their scripts later as that is what I am trying to learn these days.

  • As a writer, who do you see as your peer group?

    I don’t see myself only as a writer, so in that sense, I don’t think there is a peer group. However, all the modern Indian writers of my generation, I guess they are my peers. The Jaipur Literary Festival, where I met them all, was great fun.

  • When we buy a Chetan Bhagat product, what are we buying? What are the ingredients of Chetan Bhagat, the brand?

    My fans can answer that question better, and everyone has their own interpretation. However, let me take a guess. You are buying something fun, inspiring, simple, original, Indian and modern. On Orkut polls, the two words used to describe me most by my fans are — awesomeness and coolness. I can live with that!

  • Who is your target audience? (And we don't mean this to imply that your output is driven by marketing forces; we ask in the sense that every communicator has someone specific, or at least a section of the universe, who they seek to communicate with.)

    I’ve always written for young people, as that is the age one gets influenced most by books. However, today given my popularity, you will find my readers across all age spectrums. Sometimes, it is challenging to think about what will work for my new found audience after 2 States, which is a universal book. I’d say I still write for somewhat younger Indians, who are of course educated as the books are in English. From 17–30 of five years ago, I’d now revise it to 14–45 age group.

  • Stephen King speaks of writing to or for an ideal reader, in his case, his wife. Do you have one? And who sees your writing first?

    Stephen King knows how to get brownie points! Well, I can’t say the same now, right? I think I imagine my ideal reader to be a young middle-class person from a medium-sized city in India, with a moderate grasp of English but an extraordinary drive to do well in life. Apart from the ambition, everyone else is medium about him at present. And after he reads my book, he feels he can make his mark in the world. That’s an ideal CB reader.

  • Do you have plans to widen your audience, by, say, getting translations of your work done, both in other Indian languages as well as abroad?

    There are translations in almost all Indian languages of my previous books. They have done very well by regional standards. Foreign translations have occurred in Italian, French, Spanish and a few other languages. However, the foreign market is not my focus, as that is not what I have set out to do. It may make me more money, but as I said above, money is not the main criteria anymore.

  • So far, your impact on popular cinema hasn't been as big as your impact on the book world. By this, I mean that the films adapted from your books haven't been promoted as being the product of your mind, as compared to, say, The Da Vinci Code. Do you agree? And if yes, do you see that changing?

    Yes, of course, my impact is limited right now in films, and I’d like people to have reasonable expectations of me. It takes a long time and a lot of luck to make a name in Bollywood. Even the superstars have worked hard for decades to get to this point. I am super fortunate that all three books were taken up to be big, mainstream films and even 2 States has attracted a lot of interest. However, in Bollywood, adaptations are just starting, while in Hollywood, it is a seamless industry. Also, don’t forget the language switch that happens in my adaptations – which changes the audience and thus the marketing has to change. All I can say is, my name does add to the buzz of the movie. Even 3 Idiots, which is a megastar Aamir project all the way, became a little more exciting because of its Five Point Someone connection. And that, to me, is huge.

  • What was it like working with Bollywood?

    It is a lot of fun, and I think it is largely to do with the fact that I’ve worked with very good people. Writing books is lonely, but in movies, you at least have some colleagues and leave the house so my kids can’t say ‘my daddy stays at home and doesn’t go to the office’. Most importantly, the reach of Bollywood excites me. It is a chance to reach the maximum number of people possible.

  • You know, of course, that many people in the 'literary' world do not think highly of your work. What do you feel about that?

    Of course, I know. As far as feelings go, of course, it hurts and stings because I am human and emotionally attached to my work. However, if there is a kernel of truth in their feedback I try and take it. Sometimes they benchmark my books to masterpieces and show how it falls short. I don’t think it is fair. Saying Chetan is no Tolstoy is like saying Infosys is no Google, so Infosys is a crap company.

  • How do you rate yourself as a craftsman?

    Moderate. I’d give myself an A- on good days.

  • Was there any resistance between you and your wife's families?

  • What's with the numbers in your titles? Coincidence that they're all primes?

    The first two were just a coincidence. Then it became a fun thing to do and I carried it, though ensuring the title fitted the story. One benefit though is it makes people recall the name of all my four books easily. Otherwise, you often forget the writer’s previous works. Mine have a mnemonic.

  • If a budding writer asked you for advice on making it big, what would you say?

    I’d say stop trying to make it big because you do not control it. This is not an office job where someone will give you a promotion if you work hard and you will make it big. You write a good book and hope for the best.

  • The music industry has been hit the big time by the digital age. The news media is getting battered rather badly now. Do you think that writers will get affected too?

    Of course, there are challenges to the old traditional media from the Internet, but the people writing for it still have relevance if they adapt themselves. The Internet also gives you a chance to promote your work. I do wonder how my books, which are a thousand-year-old medium, will compete with Twitter and Facebook and the next big thing when I want a young person’s attention. So far, I have found a place in their heart. I hope I can keep it.

  • What's your take on facing up to the challenge of piracy, of fragmented attention spans, of a culture that expects content to be free? What are your plans to take advantage of the new opportunities that change will indubitably bring as well?

    Piracy, however, is a big problem, particularly so in India. The laws are lax and it is culturally okay to watch pirated stuff. It only means incentives for top talent to create top quality work is reduced if it is done in India. So, people shouldn’t complain if most movies are foreign rip-offs. In books piracy particularly hurts as we work on thin margins. I hope people will see intellectual property as equivalent to real property, and not paying what it is due is no different from someone not taking money out of your salary when you were not looking.

  • What's book five about?

    I have no idea right now. 2 States just came out, and I haven’t visited many cities where the launch needs to be held. I am a woman in the labour room right now. Even if she loves kids, now is not the time to ask when are you having your next child.

  • What went through you when you started being criticized?

  • Do you know that many people in the 'literary' world do not think highly of your work. What do you feel about that?that many people in the 'literary' world do not think highly of your work. What do you feel about that?

    Of course I know. As far as feelings go, of course it hurts and stings because I am human and emotionally attached to my work. However, if there is a kernel of truth in their feedback I try and take it. Sometimes they benchmark my books to masterpieces, and show how it falls short. I don’t think it is fair. Saying Chetan is no Tolstoy is like saying Infosys is no Google, so Infosys is a crap company.

  • How do you rate yourself as a craftsman?

    Moderate. I’d give myself an A- on good days.

  • What's with the numbers in your titles? Coincidence that they're all primes?

    The first two were just a co-incidence. Then it became a fun thing to do and I carried it, though ensuring the title fitted the story. One benefit though, is it makes people recall the name of all my four books easily. Otherwise, you often forget the writer’s previous works. Mine have a mnemonic.

  • How did your life take a turn towards writing?

  • What is your perception of the literary circle?

  • If a budding writer asked you for advice on making it big, what would you say?

    I’d say stop trying to make it big, because you do not control it. This is not a an office job where someone will give you a promotion if you work hard and you will make it big. You write a good book and hope for the best.

  • The music industry has been hit big time by the digital age. The news media is getting battered rather badly now. Do you think that writers will get affected too? What's your take on facing up to the challenge of piracy, of fragmented attention spans, of a culture that expects content to be free? What are your plans to take advantage of the new opportunities that change will indubitably bring as well?

    Of course, there are challenges to the old traditional media from the Internet, but the people writing for it still have relevance if they adapt themselves. The Internet also gives you a chance to promote your work. I do wonder how my books, which are a thousand year old medium, will compete with Twitter and Facebook and the next big thing, when I want a young person’s attention. So far, I have found a place in their heart. I hope I can keep it. Piracy however, is a big problem, particularly so in India. The laws are lax and it is culturally okay to watch pirated stuff. It only means incentives for top talent to create top quality work is reduced if it is done in India. So, people shouldn’t complain if most movies are foreign rip-offs. In books piracy particularly hurts as we work on thin margins. I hope people will see intellectual property as equivalent to real property, and not paying what it is due is no different from someone not taking money out of your salary when you were not looking.

  • What's book five about? ( December 2009)

    I have no idea right now. 2 States just came out, and I haven’t visited many cities where the launch needs to be held. I am a woman in the labour room right now. Even if she loves kids, now is not the time to ask when are you having your next child.

  • Tell us about the young Chetan Bhagat. The one before IIT. How was your school life?

    I grew up in West Delhi, and went to The Army Public School. My father was in the army and my mother in a government job — a typical middle class setup. In school, I was a good student, though not extraordinary. In fact i see the scores required now and shudder on how one can get a good college. My class X score was 76% and class xii 85%.

  • You left a secure (though it isn't as safe a field these days!) and lucrative career to pursue the writing dream, a life that is notoriously unpredictable. What helped you make the decision? How long did it take to make the break? Any regrets? Did it help that your wife is a successful professional in her own right?

    I think the continued response to all my books, and the rising fan base made me feel that ultimately I meant to something other than working in the bank. I still kept working all the way until three books became bestsellers and two movies based on them went on the floor. A top psychiatrist in Delhi told me that my impact on young minds is tremendous, and I have the power to influence them on how they live their life, if I want to take it. Hence, I should stop positioning myself as just a funny author. That conversation had an impact. The ‘safety’ was the main reason to stay on, as were the middle class upbringing values that you just don’t quit an MNC bank job. I think the final point came when I was able to overcome the lure of money. I worked for a long time internally on letting go of my attachment and identity to the amount of money I made. When that happened, the bank job seemed even more pointless. There were things I wanted to do apart from books (like the talks and columns) and the job was preventing me from doing it. My wife’s job, ironically, was not a factor in favour of quitting but quite otherwise. My wife working creates even more pressure for me to remain successful. I would though say that one big reason for me to leave was our kids, as with both of us working and me having this extra-large extra curricular activity, the kids had not time from us. I am far calmer and happier today after quitting, but yes, the end of the month salary is missed.

  • If things don't stay as good as they have been thus far — if your next books doesn't sell as much the previous ones, for instance — do you have a Plan B?If things don't stay as good as they have been thus far — if your next books doesn't sell as much the previous ones, for instance — do you have a Plan B?

    There is some sort of a plan B, but frankly life doesn’t work that way. I’ll just have to figure out plan-B if the need arises, but also only when the need arises. I have enough degrees to get me some employment. Dealing with the lack of writing success — well, I think I will devote myself to spiritual activity more.

  • What, in your opinion, are the ingredients of your personal success story? How much of your success do you attribute to having the right skills and instincts, to doing the hard grind, to being the right person with the right book at the right time, to very intelligent marketing and pricing?

    It’s all of the above points you mentioned, and yes — luck and randomness are a big part of it. I think I have a talent to entertain, believe in what I do and I do try my best to care for people. The combination comes through in my writing or whatever else I do, and people have given me a chance. However, that still does not explain why I am read the most. That comes from luck, or if you want to be romantic about it, destiny. We also are in a winner takes all society, where the winner gets a lot more attention than the next guy, who may not be very different.

  • What inspires you? And what helps you decide your subjects?

    I think the Indian middle class life, or the so-called ‘Indian way’ inspires me. Indian values are a mixed bag. We are caring, loving, ambitious, proud people. At the same time we are prejudiced, live in the past and are cynical. The new generation is changing, and fast. It allows for very interesting stories. I get a lot of ideas on what I observe, but everything cannot be turned into a book. Whichever idea keeps knocking in my head hundred times over, wins.

  • Do you have several ideas in various stages of completion at any one point, or is it one book at a time?

    Normally it is one book at a time. I may have many ideas, but it is difficult for me to ration my thoughts towards different ideas.

  • What's a day in the life of Chetan Bhagat like? If, that is, there is a typical day?

    When I was working, days were more typical, but now they are not. I travel 25 percent of the time, across the country giving talks. When home, I am now a house husband. I make sure the kids and wife go to school and office on time respectively, along with their lunchboxes. Then, I have the few hours of peace before the kids come back and I write. Once the kids come back, I spend time with them over lunch. In the afternoons, I do work of lesser concentration such as emails. I am not a workaholic and do not like to work more than seven hours a day. In the evening, I’ll go with kids to the park or go for a walk. My wife returns in the evening and we all have dinner together. As you can see, it is pretty unremarkable. Of course, the normal day can easily be derailed if one of my directors needs me to come for script work or if my publisher calls for something else.

  • How was your relationship with your father?

  • You speak of doing around 50 talks around the country every year. You write regular columns. You keep in touch with your fans via your site and social media. How do you fit it all in and still get the books done?

    Yes, it is a tough balance. I have limited myself to four talks a month, or roughly once a week, though mostly I combine a couple of them on one trip. I also write my column once in two weeks, as a weekly one would be difficult for me. When I am writing a book, I withdraw from my blog and networking sites – something my fans are not too happy about but ultimately understand. Right now, I am not writing anything as 2 States just came out, so I have time to tweet. I also plan to slow the pace of my book releases. Four books in five and a half years is quite fast.

  • Who are your icons? And specific to writing, who are the writers you seek to emulate?

    There is three sides to me. There is Chetan the entertainer — and my icons there are from the entertainment industry — whether it is Aamir Khan, Farhan Akhtar, Woody Allen, Rob Reiner. Then there is Chetan the writer — Hemingway, Orwell, RK Narayan would be icons there. And then there is Chetan the reformer — Mahatma Gandhi to Obama, there is a long list there. I think it is better to emulate different qualities from various icons, as it is rare that one person will have everything you aspire to be. At least that is the case for me.

  • What do you read when you are writing? What do you read when you are between books? For fun? To improve your mind?

    When I am writing, I avoid reading other books, especially fiction as it will impact my writing. In between books, I try to read as my fun books as possible. I also love non-fiction books such as Black Swan, Freakonomics. And of course, I love watching movies and reading their scripts later as that is what I am trying to learn these days.

  • As a writer, who do you see as your peer group?

    I don’t see myself only as a writer, so in that sense I don’t think there is a peer group. However, all the modern Indian writers of my generation, I guess they are my peers. The Jaipur Literary Festival, where I met them all, was great fun.

  • When we buy a Chetan Bhagat product, what are we buying? What are the ingredients of Chetan Bhagat, the brand?

    My fans can answer that question better, and everyone has their own interpretation. However, let me take a guess. You are buying something fun, inspiring, simple, original, Indian and modern. On Orkut polls, the two words used to describe me most by my fans are — awesomeness and coolness. I can live with that!

  • Who is your target audience?

    I’ve always written for young people, as that is the age one gets influenced most by books. However, today given my popularity, you will find my readers across all age spectrums. Sometimes, it is challenging to think what will work for my new found audience after 2 States, which is a universal book. I’d say I still write for somewhat younger Indians, who are of course educated as the books are in English. From 17–30 of five years ago, I’d now revise it to 14–45 age group.

  • Stephen King speaks of writing to or for an ideal reader, in his case, his wife. Do you have one? And who sees your writing first?

    Stephen King knows how to get brownie points! Well, I can’t say the same now right? I think I imagine my ideal reader to be a young middle class person from a medium sized city in India, with a moderate grasp of English but an extraordinary drive to do well in life. Apart from the ambition, everyone else is medium about him at present. And after he reads my book, he feels he can make his mark in the world. That’s an ideal CB reader.

  • Do you have plans to widen your audience, by, say, getting translations of your work done, both in other Indian languages as well as abroad?

    There are translations in almost all Indian languages of my previous books. They have done very well by regional standards. Foreign translations have occurred in Italian, French, Spanish and a few other languages. However, the foreign market is not my focus, as that is not what I have set out to do. It may make me more money, but as I said above, money is not the main criteria anymore.

  • So far, your impact on popular cinema hasn't been as big as your impact on the book world. By this I mean that the films adapted from your books haven't been promoted as being the product of your mind, as compared to, say, The Da Vinci Code. Do you agree? And if yes, do you see that changing?

    Yes, of course my impact is limited right now in films, and I’d like people to have reasonable expectations of me. It takes a long time and a lot of luck to make a name in Bollywood. Even the superstars have worked hard for decades to get to this point. I am super fortunate that all three books were taken up to be big, mainstream films and even 2 States has attracted a lot of interest. However, in Bollywood, adaptations are just starting, while in Hollywood, it is a seamless industry. Also, don’t forget the language switch that happens in my adaptations – which changes the audience and thus the marketing has to change. All I can say is, my name does add to the buzz of the movie. Even 3 Idiots, which is a megastar Aamir project all the way, became a little more exciting because of its Five Point Someone connection. And that, to me, is huge.

  • What was it like working with Bollywood?

    It is a lot of fun, and I think it is largely to do with the fact that I’ve worked with very good people. Writing books is lonely, but in movies you at least have some colleagues and leave the house so my kids can’t say ‘my daddy stays at home and doesn’t go to office’. Most importantly, the reach of Bollywood excites me. It is a chance to reach the maximum number of people possible.

  • Did you ever go and meet a psychiatrist?

  • How long did it take you to conceptualise, research and write the book?

    I started to work on it after Half Girlfriend was released. I did six months of research and it took me another year to write the book.

  • Can you tell us about researching for the book?

    I spoke to some 100 women. I went into the zone to get the voice. I went to every woman I knew starting with my wife, my ex-girlfriends, colleagues, friends... and then also women whom I have never met before like the flight attendants, the hotel staff and people like that. Basically I just got them to talk about themselves, what drives them, what do they think about men, their career, how their parents pressurise them to get married. So from there I was trying to make a common theme, a common narration and that’s how the story came about.

  • Is Radhika Mehta, the protagonist in One Indian Girl, similar to any one woman whom you met while researching?

    Radhika is not similar to any one woman. I write stories which are relatable. I write books which are read in every corner of the country. Anybody who picks up the book should be able to relate to it. When a girl picks it up she would be like ‘Oh I do that sometimes’; when a guy picks it up it he would be like ‘I do that too’. So it has to be no one person. It is all the people whom I met; it’s an amalgamation of their personalities.

  • Since One Indian Girl is a book on feminism, has writing this book helped you understand your wife better now?

    I think so. I mean, generally, I understand women much better now. It has made me much more patient with them and made me understand feminism.

  • Can we now say that Chetan Bhagat knows ‘what women want’ after doing much research on One Indian Girl?

    I think you can say that I know some of what women want. I can definitely tell what a woman wants by talking to her, not all of it though. I can understand women better.

  • Any tips on understanding women for Indian men out there?

    Well, you have to realise that times have changed and that women now are more empowered. There was a time when the man had to make money whereas the woman had to take care of the house but it has changed. A woman now doesn’t need a man to provide for her. A woman now needs a man who inspires her, will be her partner, give her advice, bring out the best in her. Men have to realise that what they had in their mother’s time or grandmother’s time has changed.

  • Talking of your writing it is simple, easy to read and comprehend. Is that the Chetan Bhagat style?

    It is important that what you are writing should be simple. It is not simple to be simple. I do work very hard, I mean I tell my story and tell it in a simple manner.

  • You were one of the mentors for the Write India Season 1 campaign. Can you tell us about it?

    Well of course when we started I thought that reading and writing is said to be declining but we got a lot of responses, I was told, and I’m happy to know. It’s a good initiative. People talking about reading and writing, when the world is filled with apps and videos these days.

  • What would your writing tips be for an aspiring writer?

    Read a lot, write a lot.

  • You have written books, movie scripts, been on TV... what next now? Are you planning to reinvent again?

    This book 'One Indian Girl' is a reinvention of my writing. There’s a lot of thought that’s put to writing. So now I’m going to see, I’m going to slow it down a bit.

  • What is your book 'Revolution 2020' about?

  • Your interaction with people on social media, it’s noticed that there have been a few incidences of trolling too. How do you manage to stay positive and take things in your stride?

    I cannot control people’s reactions—that’s not in my hands. If you write something, a book, some people won’t like you. I can only take a feedback if it is well thought of but if it is just a rant, or trolling, that I don’t think even deserves a discussion. It’s a part of being on social media—to be trolled.

  • So what’s your mantra in life?

    I always keep telling people don’t take things too seriously. I’m not a very serious person but I’m very sincere about my work. When I do something I try to do it well and up to my ability.

  • What was so enticing about the Amazon deal for you to break off a 14-year association with Rupa Publishing?

    I do not see it as ending an association. They will still be publishing all my books that have come till this moment. I will be involved with that task, too. But, I want to explore new frontiers. I need a partner who can take me global and who can make me reach every corner of India. I got that in Amazon.

  • Your stories have all been India-based. Going global, will there be a change in approach?

    [Amazon] have not told me to. They have not said that I need to write now for the Zimbabwe market, which I cannot. Good stories are universal. A lot of people pick up my books to find Indian stories. But my last book, One Indian Girl, was set in New York, so anything is possible.

  • In an interview after 2 States, you had said that the foreign market is not your focus. What are your views now?

    That was 2009. At that time, I was relatively new. Today, we have an Amazon Publishing, which can give you global access. That was very difficult at that time. Nine years on, I think it is time for me to step up the game.

  • Are you fascinated with the idea of the video/entertainment medium, with almost all your books being turned into movies?

    I am fascinated by everything. Books are what have made me who I am. But, if I get opportunities to do digital entertainment or films, I will do it.

  • People have become very ruthless on social media. What are your views on them?

    Anybody who is popular [faces criticism], especially because of Twitter, which has become very negative. If you are a writer, you will say things that not everybody will agree with. You are creating change and writing stories about a modern, progressive India. I don’t write regressive stories. Some people who are more traditional will get upset. I used to be very touchy about criticism. I did everything, spreading myself too thin—do movies, do this, do that.... And, I just went a little crazy. Then I realised books are the most important part of life.

  • You had done a dance reality show (Nach Baliye 7) , which got you a lot of flak, because writers don’t do such things. What are your views on that?

    I was a judge on the dance show, not a participant. That changes things. The show is one of the most popular shows in the country and I got a chance to do it. Everybody found out who I am and they will pick up my book. It was a marketing [strategy]. I have no regrets.

  • What is Five Point Someone about?

    Five point Someone is about three boys in IIT who can’t cope with the system. Their poor grade point average, brands them as the underperformers of IIT society – and tests everything else they hold important – friends, love, dreams and responsibilites. How important are grades or broadly speaking, how important is success compared to other aspects of your life? Five Point Someone explores this question.

  • Tell us something more about the writing style used in the book (Five point someone)?

    The writing style is extremely informal. This may be reffered to as modern English, but the idea is to write as people talk in college age. Hence, no flowery language, no tough words you dreaded in a dictation, no set rules. Yet – it works, because it is the language of real people.

  • How do you aim to attract youngsters?

  • How big is the book (Five point someone)?

    The final details are being worked out, but expected to be around 250 pages which is a medium sized novel. However, because of the simple language, the book reads much faster.

  • The book (Five point someone) is set in IIT?

    Yes, the book is set in the IIT Delhi campus. Locations, places and venues are all very real. And the prices for paranthas are real too – though at one point in time in the past.

  • How did you come about writing this book (Five Point Someone)?

    I have loved writing since my first four line joke came out in the school magazine when I was in Class V. I was so excited on seeing my name in print, I would show the magazine to random people on DTC buses. Writing a book was always a dream, but I was worried my life will never have something so spectacular that I will have a story to tell. But IIT hostel life was quite something, and touched me (and anyone else who has been there) like nothing else in life. Maybe it was just the age, but it was very special. Hence, I got my subject. The final reason was trying to change the stereotype of an IITian – full of numbers, geeky and nerdy. We are fun people too, and if you read this book you will see why and what we are upto in those years.

  • How long did it take to write Five Point Someone?

    It depends on where you start. The idea has been floating in my head for over eight years now. But much of the process took place over a three year period.

  • What was the process like while writing Five Point Someone?

    You have to remember that I have a day job. Mostly it meant waking up an hour early in the morning and writing – every day, day after day; and sometimes, I wrote at night as well. First draft, second draft and so on until the ninth draft. Some people then said it doesn’t work. Back to the drawing board, a complete re-write, first draft, second draft and so on upto sixth draft. Then it worked! And all these steps are slow, without hope of success in sight, and yes not funny at all. I must thank all those people who helped read various versions and took me through to the end.

  • You mention the IIT hostel days were special. In what way?

    Life at IIT transforms your personality completely, leaving permanent changes – as if you have had genetic mutations. Yet, I say this in a good way. You have never been around such smart people and such workload. And all the while, your pent-up hormones are just about getting started. It is a very special age. In this system, all you have is your friends – you find respite in the same people you compete with. And soon, you bond like you never will with anyone else in life. Yes, I would go to the extent of saying that you bond better with your IIT friends than to your spouse (big statement, know I am going to regret this one). The other aspect of IIT being special, is that later in life, when you have creature comforts that you always dreamt of, you may not be so happy after all. Ask any IITian or for that matter anyone who has been in college – despite the broken rubber chappals and roadside meals, those days are some of the happiest times of their lives. Why is it? This book is an attempt to explore that as well.

  • Was the process gone behind writing Five Point Someone worth it?

    Good question. I think marginally, yes! Just kidding. Actually, if I can contribute to a richer legacy of the institute – to provide something on IIT that tells you that there is a heart along with the brain, then it is worth it. And if my readers find it funny, then it is super duper worth it.

  • It is said your book (Five Point Someone) explores the dark side of IIT as well. Is that true?

    Well, yes and no. I think it not only explores the dark side, but also the bright side. Therefore for every student facing pressure, another one succeeds. If someone finds the situation stressful, another one finds it funny. Thus, I’d like to think it is a more balanced approach. But yes, it is not just a praise-filled work about IIT. It is more real – and real life doesn’t work that way.

  • Are there any books that inspired Five Point Someone -and why?

    I learn whatever I can about writing from other great books. Some of the books that really stayed with me are: Catcher in the Rye (JD Salinger) – It is the classic teenage voice book. The feelings of the protagonist and his anger get under your skin and stay with you. Moth Smoke (Mohsin Hamid) – This book, by a writer of Pakistani origin is wonderfully written, and one of the few that talks about modern, present-day issues for the new generation in Pakistan. It is strikingly relevant to India too. The God of Small Things (Arundhati Roy) – This book is very well known for the richness of its characters and emotions. However, as an engineer, I also see Ms. Roy’s architecture background contributing structure to the story. She has done a wonderful job at weaving the story together, which is told non-sequentially. Very hard to do this well, and she has done it. Catch-22 (Joseph Heller) – Very funny. The humor is top class and the fact that the name became an accepted English phrase tells you what impact it has had. English August (Upmanyu Chatterjee) – The IAS officer’s story is again extremely funny and very Indian.

  • Can you give us three “Good to Know” facts about you?

    Well, first fact is that when I was really young I wanted to be a chef. I gave up because I saw some really overweight chefs and I was worried I would have a heart attack by 35. I still really like cooking (and eating) . Owing to yoga influences, I am turning mostly vegetarian but still creating healthy, tasty dishes. Second, I really do like Govinda and some other Tapori movies. Now, I do enjoy movies and books with deep meaning (see the Spanish film Talk to Her, too good!), but how can you be a Delhi boy and not like Govinda? Third, I love making friends. So please do send a note on the guestbook. Who knows, as Rick says at the end of the movie Casablanca – “Louis, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.”

  • Your stand on Infosys debate is being criticized as a publicity stunt. Your comments?

  • Please tell us more about your new Book 'India Positive'.

  • You had once tweeted "I love Nationalism but I hate Nationalism imposed with a stick. Can you please explain us a bit about it?

  • It should come from within.

  • Do you think that the translated editions of the Books written by Indian Authors are sold more than the ones in English?

  • Do you read Novels in Hindi?

  • Who is your Favorite writer?

  • How do you look back at your situation with '3 Idiots'?

  • Who is your favorite Author who wrote in English?

  • Which is your favorite Genre of Stories?

  • People say that the plots in your stories are very predictable and mostly of the same sort.

  • So, are you trying to bring about a change in writing Love Stories with this Murder Mystery?

  • Do you plan on how to write or just start writing?

  • I have heard that a writer at first works on the climax and then goes back connecting the points, in a way it is a return journey. Is it true?

  • Hindi Literature can be divided into a popular genre and a more serious one but in English there is no such thing. What do you think makes Hindi Literature more difficult?

  • Would you write any stories in Hindi in the near future?

  • There has been an accusation against many prominent writers in India including you that to promote your books in a good way you yourself buy a major portion of them to reflect a good amount of sales figure. Can you talk a bit on this?

  • You always include a numerical in the title of your stories like'3 Mistakes of My Life', '2 States' etc.

  • What do you mean by 'an unlove story'?

  • Let's talk about Current affairs now. How do you like the Modi Government?

  • About GST, some Entrepreneurs like it while some say that this has affected small traders in a negative way.

  • But the BJP doesn't use topics like the GST or Demonetization in its electoral campaigns now. Could it be that the BJP themselves are not so sure about its efficacy?

  • Do you think that Government is not doing enough to curb incidents like Mob Lynching etc.?

  • Do you think that the current government is not able to check what their representatives are saying in the public, like a BJP Leader whom we spoke to a few days ago said that 'before development comes the country', a difficult to understand phrase here.

  • It is a common belief that there still isn't a leader like Prime Minister Narendra Modi at present, who else would be if not him. Do you think that there is some validity in this question?

  • So, do you mean that Congress is lacking the smartness that BJP has?

  • Please comment a bit on the Alliance between the opposition parties that people believe would not be successful in the long run.

  • Do you want to get into politics? Have you ever thought about it?

  • Why did you choose the particular theme for 'Girl in Room 105'?

  • What kind of response do you get for non-fiction stories?

  • How to do you think can the Millennials be drawn to Books as they have so much limited to invest?

  • Do you think mainstream media is responsible for the caricature of Kashmir?

  • How did you convince the publishers?

  • What are your views about the extremes on Twitter?

  • What has disappointed you the most about Modi government?

  • How do your critics and readers look at you?

  • What is your perspective on lynchings as a concerned citizen?

  • What is Half-Girlfriend about?

  • What are your views on Hindi and English extremisms?

  • What are your views on the Literature being taught to students?

  • How do you see the changing aspirations in India in terms of language?

  • Where are you headed next?

  • Can you tell us something we don't know about you?

  • When you look back, do you feel like changing something in 5 Point Someone?

  • Do you think writing in a different language is the same as abandoning your ethnicity?

  • How much time do you take to write a book?

  • How long do you stay in character while writing a novel?

  • Do you write novels while keeping a movie in mind?

  • What inspired you to write 'One Indian Girl'?

  • Did you get any advantage of engineering while writing?

  • What is your advice to young writers?

  • What is your way of writing?

  • How has the journey been so far?

  • What is your book 'India Positive' about?

  • Do you take pride in the fact that your books are easy to read?

  • How has your presence grown over social media?

  • How has the reception received by readers changed over these years?

  • Why do your non-fiction books have numbers in their titles?

  • What do you think about your contemporaries?

  • What's your favourite book from those that you have written?

  • Any theme that you haven't touched but you'd still like to explore?

  • Who were your childhood heroes?

  • How did your parents take your decision to enter Bollywood and Indian TV?

  • How old are your kids?

  • What are your goals for your future?

  • What is your opinion about the criticisms that you receive from the top 1% of writers?

  • What is your advice to youngsters who want to transit to a profession like yours that doesn't have much pay?

  • Does it bother you that your novel has to be dumbed down to fit Bollywood?

  • What was the controversy with '3 Idiots'?

  • How close is the '2 States' film to the book?

  • What have you learnt about Feminism through 'One Indian Girl'?

  • Do you ever worry about your books?

  • Why do you seem to align yourself with the popular sentiment of the day?

  • Why are you so critical of the award-waapsi gang?

  • Did you face any particular challenge when trying to write as a woman for 'One Indian Girl'?

  • What kind of research did you do for 'One Indian Girl'?

  • How do you approach thinking about sex from a different gender's perspective?

  • Can you tell us about your book 'The Girl in Room 105'?

  • Which is your least favourite book of the lot?

  • Do you feel that the audience has not been particularly kind to you?

  • How do you deal with criticism?

  • Do you feel some people are jealous of your success?

  • Why have you shifted from love stories to a mystery-thriller this time?

  • What was the most challenging book to write?

  • What do you think about your controversy with Feminism?

  • What is the meanest criticism of your book that you remember?

  • One compliment that you really cherish?

  • Are you happy right now?

  • What do you regret in life?

  • Are you envious of any author?

  • How do you judge if a person is fake or genuine?

  • What is your opinion on Grammar Nazis?

  • What do you think about #MeToo?

  • Whom do you visualise while you write?

  • What occupies your days nowadays?

  • What all do you do?

  • How does it feel like to be called by The New York Times as the biggest selling author in India's history?

  • How did you manage to write in your spare time and become so successful?

  • Can you tell something about your childhood?

  • What made you shift to Mumbai City?