Bengaluru: “Even if the reading culture has gone down, books won't go away. Books are like stairs. There are elevators and escalators everywhere, but we still have stairs, that’s what books are,” was one of the statements made by author Chetan Bhagat at the Bangalore Literature Festival (BLF). Authors and book lovers attended the 10th edition of the BLF at the Bangalore International Center on December 18th and 19th. Chetan Bhagat had made his first offline public appearance on the first day of the BLF after the onset of COVID-19.
“I feel like I am cooler than my kids. I am open-minded about the youngsters and that's how I maintain a young readership. I am in touch with ‘India’s pulse’, and come up with books that interest youngsters,” he said when asked about his young audience. Other than books and writing, Chetan Bhagat also discussed various aspects of his personal life in which he failed and struggled to come up. He described life as a three-legged chair that is balanced with career, relationship, and health. A person can be happy only if all three things are equally balanced, he added.
Answering a question on his story genres, he said that writing romance fiction was easier compared to mystery. “That's where I am able to bring in a little bit of “Chetan Bhagat '' to my work. “400 Days” is a mystery novel about a missing girl which revolves around a mother looking for her daughter and ends up having an affair with the investigation officer.” “Nowadays stories are not just about the boy getting the girl, it is about mystery. Even though I am not Agatha Christie, I am doing my best to write mystery romance novels,” he added.
Shashi Deshpande (right) with Indira Chandrasekhar. Credits: Siddhi Jojare
Well-known writer Shashi Deshpande said, “It is hard for authors to take a stand because we will be shot down on social media. With “Subversions: Essays on Life and Literature”, I was able to take a stand in some situations without being shut down.” The Sahitya Academy award winner was speaking on the second day of the festival. Answering a question on young readership, she responded: “I am glad that today’s young readership is showing interest towards my writing and books. Even if they don't actually read my work, they are at least checking it out. That is a great thing for me.”
Indira Chandrasekhar, writer and scientist, who moderated the event, asked insightful questions about writing and reading going hand-in-hand. Talking mostly about reading than writing, Shashi Deshpande explained how she kept her reading going even as she was busy writing, and how her reading did not affect her writing process. She said, “if what we are writing is a “far away” genre from what we want to read, there is no reason why reading and writing should not go hand in hand.”
“Writing short stories is like running a sprint and writing a novel is a marathon. That’s probably why I spent most of my youth writing novels and now that I am older I am leaning more towards writing short stories and essays,” she added while answering a question about her recent works.
This was followed by a question-answer session after which the author signed her books.