One Indian vs Chetan's Indian Girl

A Bangalore-based author has accused Chetan Bhagat of plagiarising her short story for his latest novel One Indian Girl and got a court order suspending the book's sales six months after its launch.

By Our Special Correspondent in Bangalore
  • Published 26.04.17
Bhagat, Bajpai

Bangalore, April 25: A Bangalore-based author has accused Chetan Bhagat of plagiarising her short story for his latest novel One Indian Girl and got a court order suspending the book's sales six months after its launch.

Anvita Bajpai, a tech consultant who has authored two books, told The Telegraph today that Bhagat had "intelligently copied" from Drawing Parallels, the first story from her 2014 book Life, Odds & Ends.

After the temporary injunction order by a Bangalore civil court, Bhagat today posted a clarification on his Facebook page and insisted all his works were original. He termed the latest developments "deeply unfortunate".

Bajpai had submitted copies of both books, Bhagat's and her own, to the Bangalore court that on April 19 passed orders asking the publisher, Rupa Publications, to withdraw all copies of One Indian Girl until further notice.

In his clarification today, Bhagat claimed innocence and vouched for all his works as originals. "My stories are always original -- including One Indian Girl -- and it is unthinkable for me to do anything like what is suggested," he stated.

"I write universal stories about everyday issues. This could be a misunderstanding and am sure will be clarified as what is being suggested is baseless," Bhagat said, adding his publisher's legal team would take appropriate steps.

Asked about the allegations, Bhagat told The Telegraph this evening that he had "nothing more to say than what's on FB post". Calls to Kapish Mehra, managing director of Rupa Publications, went unanswered. In Calcutta, two leading bookstores said they hadn't received any instructions from Rupa to halt sales of One Indian Girl.

Bajpai, however, maintained that Bhagat's novel had far too many similarities with her short story. "His novel is a very intelligent copy of my short story. It has too many similarities. The story, the flow and the characters are all so similar," said the alumna of IIT-Madras and IIM-Bangalore who has been based for several years in Bangalore where she is a consultant for start-ups.

While Bhagat claimed in his clarification that he didn't know anyone by the name of Anvita Bajpai or her works, Bajpai said she had given him a copy of her book in 2014 soon after it was launched. "Being my first book, I had eagerly handed out copies to authors, filmmakers and actors for feedback. One of the first copies was given to Bhagat as well," said Bajpai, who is originally from Etawah in Uttar Pradesh.

Bajpai said her short story Drawing Parallels "is about today's urban scenario of how women strike a balance". "It is centred on a non-conventional woman adventurously deviant in choosing sex partners until she settles down in life."

"I found that Bhagat's latest book reads exactly like my story," Bajpai said. She added that she was determined to go the distance in her "fight for justice".

After reading Bhagat's book, Bajpai said she was shocked to discover the similarities but wanted to forget it as a bad dream. "But somewhere in me, I wanted justice as I couldn't overcome the hurt it caused."

Bajpai said she sent Bhagat a legal notice on February 22 seeking Rs 5 lakh as damages. "A month later, on March 23, he replied stoutly denying he had copied anything. That's when I consulted my lawyers and decided to move court."

According to Bajpai's legal notice, in both books the main character goes through three relationships one after the other. Another common element is that the stories begin with a situation where the protagonist, who has already had a couple of relationships, chances upon her first lover. In both books, according to the notice, the protagonist takes a break to get to her inner feelings and understand what she really needs from life.

In Bajpai's work, the protagonist named Aliya often draws an analogy between her first lover and Lord Krishna. In Bhagat's book, the protagonist is named Radhika. Both women are successful professionals.

Both stories end at one of the sites listed among the "New Seven Wonders of the World". While Bajpai's short story ends at the Taj Mahal, Bhagat's novel concludes at Machu Picchu, a 15th century Inca citadel in Peru. "The whole flow of the two stories are very similar although Chetan Bhagat's is a novel and hence need a more detailed description than my short story," Bajpai said.

This is not Bhagat's first brush with allegations of plagiarism. His 2014 book Half Girlfriend -the subject of an upcoming Bollywood movie - had come under a similar cloud when Birbal Jha, a teacher who runs a spoken English institute in Patna, accused him of lifting the idea from his play Englishia Boli.

Jha had claimed that Bhagat visited his institute in January 2014 and watched the play. According to Jha, he had handed over a copy of the play's script to the author. Half Girlfriend was published later that year. Bhagat had brushed aside the allegations and blamed the media for reading too much into the accusations instead of reading his book.

Bajpai, who described herself as someone "passionate" about writing, said she was "not a fan" of Bhagat and One Indian Girl was his only book she had read, although she confessed having watched 3 Idiots, Kai Po Che, and 2 States, Bollywood films based on his books.

The last such prominent case involving an Indian author was in 2006 when a young Indian-American student of Harvard University, Kaavya Viswanathan, wrote How Opal Mehta Got Kissed, Got Wild, and Got a Life.

Published by Little Brown and Company, the young adult novel it to The New York Times bestseller list but was withdrawn after it was discovered that portions of it had been plagiarised from several sources, including the works of Salman Rushdie, Meg Cabot, Sophie Kinsella and Megan McCafferty.

Viswanathan apologised and said any similarities were "completely unintentional and unconscious". All shelf copies of Opal Mehta were ultimately recalled and destroyed by the publisher.