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Monday , January 30 , 2012
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Mr Bestseller the big draw

Sharmistha Sinha, a doctor at RG Kar Medical College, had a mission on Sunday — to make a request to Chetan Bhagat. “You write in lucid English, because of which the youth of India read you. Please write about disability in your books. Only then will there be more awareness about this issue,” the lady said, rolling her wheelchair towards the dais in the UBI auditorium at the Book Fair.

Chetan, in town as part of the Calcutta Literary Meet, held in association with The Telegraph, said he would try to understand the issue.

Sinha later told Metro why it had to be Chetan Bhagat. “I realised how widely read he is after speaking to my students. The pen is a powerful tool and I feel he has the power to move society, to change the community, to motivate people. I have knocked on many doors to raise awareness about disability. Now, I feel it will happen only if Chetan writes about it,” she said emphatically.

It was quite fitting that Chetan’s topic for the evening was Being a Bestseller: Power, Responsibility and Pressures. And the pressures of being a bestseller were all too evident at the end of the session when it needed special security intervention to free the Five Point Someone man from an autograph-photograph hunting mob.

The only author to be mobbed at the city’s first Lit Meet said he wanted to be a role model. “I am very uncomfortable when I am called a youth icon. But a lot of youngsters look up to me. So, I want to be a role model, but of a different kind. I am not Baba Ramdev. I want a good life — a nice house, a car. But I want to be a good person too. That’s very important.”

But he also said that he was human, and like everybody else, he did stupid things sometimes. “And I will continue to do stupid things!” he grinned.

In the audience, CA student Anchal of Howrah was recording every syllable on her cellphone, for her sister Prachi, who couldn’t come.

Chetan said he coveted neither power nor position. “I’m often told that my real agenda is to join politics. But, I don’t need power or position to make my point. Mahatma Gandhi didn’t hold any cabinet rank....”

It’s not known if everyone agreed with the ambitious — most would say outrageous — Gandhi parallel, but young Vishma Pratap of Mother International School nodded vigorously. “I am a big fan. I like him because of his social vision,” were the words of wisdom from the Class IX kid.

Speaking about his critics — and there are many — Chetan said he used to be hurt by their barbs. So, he advised his audience to “just not care”. “People tell you, ‘be successful’. But what they don’t tell you is that when you become successful, people will try to bring you down. They will start disliking you, they will become unhappy with your success.”

Mohammed Tausif Iqbal of PwC was more worried about when the e-book of Chetan’s latest title Revolution 2020 would come out. “Being visually challenged, I have to wait for the e-book, which I read with JAWS software.” Chetan assured him that the digital version would be out soon.

Earlier in the day, Chetan had chatted with Metro about his decision to come for the Calcutta Lit Meet. “I was initially invited by the Publishers and Booksellers Guild. When the Literary Meet came up, they sort of traded me to them,” he laughed. He added that he had wanted to engage with Calcutta on a “big platform” like the Book Fair because till now he had only held sessions with small groups in the city.

On Sunday, Calcutta responded by thronging the venue, asking sweet and innovative questions, gushing and blushing into the mike and finally breaking the barricade and mobbing the author who has sold more than six million copies.

Why do you think Chetan Bhagat has such a massive fan following? Tell