Dear Chetan Bhagat: I quit my job and became a writer because of you

Quartz india
Quartz india

Dear Chetan,

First things first. Let me get a few confessions out of the way.

I have not read any of your books and yet I have seen your popularity and sales figure soar with every title you come up with.

The only rendezvous I’ve had with you was when I was working as an event manager. I came within breathing distance of you when I was trying to put a mic on your jacket, moments before you were to go up on stage and deliver a motivational lecture.

I am yet to meet anyone who has shown fondness for what you write or how your write. But for some reason, everyone I know has an opinion or two about you. And that sir, is no mean feat.

But, Chetan, thank you!

Thank you for giving me the courage to quit my day job and wade into uncertain waters while I chased my dreams of becoming a published author. If not for your success, I couldn’t have done it.

Please indulge me as I go back in time.

I first heard of you in 2004. I was a first-year MBA student at MDI Gurgaon. Those days, reading was regarded as a great way to “build CV value” and impress hiring managers at job interviews. So I picked up reading.

I tried different genres. And by trial and error I settled on and fell in love with Jeffery Archer, John Grisham, Sue Grafton and others. What more, I often found myself day dreaming about creating such plots and stories myself.

Even though I had faith in my abilities and a fire in my belly, I was not sure if I could actually become an author. How could I? After all, I came from a humble background and English to me was, what can I say, intimidating! To me, English was something that only the elite could indulge in during their fancy dinner parties. Lingua Britannica was something as exclusive as attending your alma maters—the IITs and the IIMs.

The writers and the readers of content created in English had to be special. I mean look at the bestseller list in India from October 2004. Giving you company on those charts were the likes of Amitav Ghosh, Mitch Albom and Khushwant Singh. These authors have a pedigree that I could give an arm and a leg for. Each of them is read and discussed by the elite. I could hardly comprehend the language, the depth, the richness, the detail, the pain, the suffering, the longing and other such things that these books talked about.

You, Chetan, were like a whiff of fresh air in an old room full of yellowing books. Your presence on the list dispelled the notion that writing was a serious business; and the notion that you had to be, if not a doctorate in literature, a post-graduate at least to even think about writing.

Before you came along ten years ago, had I tried to approached a publisher with my manuscript, they would’ve laughed at me. They would have probably not even let me enter their offices.

Fast forward to October 2014. There are more publishers than ever before. Foreign publishers have set up shop in India and they often publish books by authors like you. And I.

Literary agents, and good ones at that, are now dime a dozen. Experienced editors are willing to work with newer authors without expecting a fortune for their editing talent. Great designers are willing to work for next to nothing. Self-publishing and social media have unleashed a new crop of writers and given them cheap, innovative ways to reach an audience.

And Chetan, you were part of this change. Your success made it possible. You helped create an entire ecosystem.

Unchanged, however, remains your presence on the bestseller lists. Or may I say your dominance?

On the latest lists, you are now accompanied by the likes of Paulo Coelho, Sachin Tendulkar and Boria Majumdar. And then there are authors like Preeti Shenoy, Ravinder Singh and Durjoy Datta.

You know Chetan, you gave me a precedent that I could share with my family when I decided to quit my cozy job. Your success gave me a plausible justification for switching careers after almost 10 years of work. The world around me questioned my sanity but because I had your success as an example, they eventually acquiesced.

And I shall remain indebted to you forever for your seminal work, Five Point Someone. You have proved beyond doubt that English literature is no longer a slave to the elite.

Saurabh Garg

Author, The Nidhi Kapoor Story

PS: Oh, would you have time to read my first book? I would love to send a copy.

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