‘Khan market gang mentality in literature must go’

Indian literature has no place for a ‘Khan market gang mentality,’ said Chetan Bhagat, decrying elitism in literature while defending the simplicity of work at a session of the Times Litfest in Delhi on Sunday.
The simplicity of his books, Bhagat said, is the reason behind their popularity. “Most of us have a myopic view of literature. What is literature? Telling what is happening in society in simple words. Rather than criticising my books, one can simply accept the fact that it can help connect many with the written word,” he said.

The writer said he thinks Indians have an ‘aukaat’ (loosely translated to ‘status’) problem. “You won’t find this problem anywhere else. It forces you to think within a set mould according to your reach, education and upbringing,” he said.
Bhagat said his success is helping shake elitism out of literature. “I feel that my popularity scares those ‘elite’ people who think that if this guy, who has no prior exposure in this field can be so successful then it is a cause for concern,” he said.

He said the division between ‘elite’ writers and the ‘lesser mortals’ was holding Indian literature back. “This division can actually have a negative impact on the reading habits among people which is on a downward spiral,” Bhagat added.

He said children today spend hours on social media but the accessibility of his writing can draw readers away from their phones and computers, and spark an interest in books. “If a kid reads my book one day and takes a liking to it, then somewhere my book is helping take an interest in reading,” he said.

“Now, when a parent then tells them to stop reading Chetan Bhagat, then the kid goes back to YouTube/Instagram quitting reading altogether. So ask are you helping literature or are you hurting literature?” he said.

In the face of criticism and trolling, Bhagat said he has developed a thick skin. “Initially it bothered me a lot. Over the years, I have realised that critics will criticise about me and I have made peace with it,” he said.
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