HYDERABAD: Chetan Bhagat’s latest release India Positive claims to be simple takes on India’s burning issues. Picking up from the essays he has written as a columnist along with a few new essays, this one is a collection of short essays littered with a few of Chetan Bhagat’s tweets for context as well.
After successfully steering away from fiction since his last few books, this one feels like the culmination of all his life’s work. Now although the book promises to be simple takes, all it actually is, is just that– simple. He did get the burning issues part right though. The 41 essay compilation speaks of practically everything wrong with India, feels like we are getting to a conclusion, but somehow we only end up going in circles and more confused than ever. India Positive isn’t a one-stop solution or even a strong opinion piece on each issue it tackles. It stays safe, and on the fence about the topic discussed while carrying on a facade of clarity.
This isn’t to say anything that Bhagat writes is wrong. He is essentially right and factually correct, but these are obvious moralities without going too deep into the exceptions or repercussions. For instance, chapter Hypocritical and Impractical: With the Porn Ban, the Government has Flaunted its Control Freak Instincts isn’t as straight forward as the title itself. It cites, “Instead of policing the private lives of citizens with needless bans, the government should pay attention to basic reforms in key sectors.” That pretty much sums the chapter itself even as it closes with, “people have the right to choose.” This is the mood of the entire book, about every issue under the sun. It’s a common man’s understanding of these problems, which most probably are a given and known by everyone already. There is no sense of epiphany or realisation as you read through the 216 pages.
Bhagat writes in a simple tone, easy to understand and doesn’t burden the reader with too many facts or figures but sticks to observations. This I must admit was a smart move, considering it keeps the common reader unintimidated even though it speaks of burning issues. On the other hand, the over-simplification sometimes takes away from the gravitas of the situation as well.
Despite the claim of criticism and the clickbaity titles of the chapters, one can’t help but see an underlying bias towards the ruling party and more specifically Narendra Modi. It’s subtle but it is there. He speaks of “India Positive Citizens” - people of India rooting for India to “change”. I rooted for the book to convert me. But it made me feel a sad resignation of “just do what you can” than motivated me and rationalised with me with facts, figures and history.