The 3 Mistakes of My Life

‘The biggest selling English language novelist in India’s history’ says the cover of The 3 Mistakes of My Life, Chetan Bhagat’s new novel. In the Acknowledgments page he writes, ‘However, I don’t want to be India’s most admired writer. I just want to be India’s most loved writer.’ By ‘admired’ he meant ‘respected’ I think.
In the same page he starts off with ‘To Shinie Antony…’ and goes about listing all the people that helped him BUT he does not say what he wanted to say. It is just a list of people. Who is your editor Chetan?

I told myself that I will not start judging the book even before I read it. But I can’t help it.

I don’t want to talk about Bhagat’s writing skills. I am even willing to forgive the lapse on page 3 of the story. He will admit himself that his prose is not something to write home about. Let’s talk storytelling. His story is based in Ahmedabad. His characters talk like they are in Boston though. Where is the local flavor Chetan? Guys, even those that want to be seen as hip, don’t talk like ‘Sure, Ish could not make his dream of being in the Indian Cricket team real.’ I know, you mean ‘Ish could not realise his dream…’ If someone smashes my face, I will not ask ‘What’s wrong with you?’ I will punch him back or run away or at least scream my lungs off. But I definitely won’t inquire about my attacker’s state of mind.

Chetan don’t be carried away by Bollywood. You probably think it is a shrewd idea to package Cricket and Religion in a tale. It is probably clever, I don’t know, but to spin a tale, any tale, you need to get the basics write right. I want to identify with your characters. I don’t expect a Gujju boy to sound like a foul-mouthed, prepubescent American. I am sure Gujju boys use a lot more ‘behen chod’ or ‘madar chod’ than ‘fuck’. I hazard a guess that not many in that small town use ‘dude’. My point is that I could not see the old city in Ahmedabad. The net effect was that your characters lack life and depth. They sound like Bollywood characters.

So how does one bring the local, vernacular flavor to a tale written in English? Find key phrases, ideas… hooks that will instantly make your reader relate to your story. For example, if you wrote a story based in Chennai about the same characters. You are better off writing ‘Otha stop it da machan’ than ‘What the fuck! Stop it dude!’ That’s a crude example, but I hope you see my point.

Chetan you know what the three mistakes of your life are now? Don’t you?

I wonder, when an American critic picks up the novel, and spots the line on page 3 ‘We ran out the house’ what will she think about us Indian readers? All right it is a typo but dude, but what the fuck?

Here’s a review by The Mint. Taneesha, learn what a possessive pronoun is first before you write shit like “Its not when New York Times describes him as the biggest selling English language author…”
Long live mediocrity!

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