This post has been self-published on Youth Ki Awaaz by Lipi Mehta. Just like them, anyone can publish on Youth Ki Awaaz.

How Chetan Bhagat Exposed My Snobbishness As A Reader

More from Lipi Mehta

I recently found my copy of Chetan Bhagat’s first novel, “5 Point Someone”, at my house. It was comfortably tucked between “The Hungry Tide” by Amitav Ghosh and “A Fine Balance” by Rohinton Mistry, and the sight caused me slight discomfort. Why? Because since my childhood, I have grown up hearing about what kinds of books ‘intelligent people’ should read and what they should avoid. Be it through conversations with friends, the school librarian, or the Internet – I realised that I have grown up being a snob about reading. This is also the reason I find it difficult to digest how Bhagat has become a literary giant over the 10 years that his books have been published and read by millions in India.

He has captured the Indian imagination in an unimaginable way, and as much as I hesitate to admit it, he has captured mine as well. This hesitance is also a way of defending my “intelligence”, without admitting that he continues to intrigue me and that I have bought most of his books and read them cover to cover. And after 10 years of constantly criticising him, I have only now started confronting what really makes me queasy about his success: he exposes my snobbishness and privilege as a reader.

Hear me out.

When I scoffed at “5 Point Someone” and “One Night At A Call Center” being priced at only 99, I completely overlooked my privilege of growing up in a house full of books and that of being able to afford books that cost more. Without thinking, I even put a price to the joy of reading. Did my access to books make me think that I am better than the lakhs of others who don’t? Over the years, I have realised that snobbishness comes easy with the privilege of reading, but it’s so important to keep it in check.  

(Photo by Natasha Hemrajani/Hindustan Times via Getty Images)

Bhagat’s books and his rise to fame have also forced me to rethink my definition of reading and being a reader. I used to read a lot, and over time, I stopped. I started getting intimidated by the size of the book and the size of the print, something that I’d never even thought of before. I read a few books last year, including parts of Bhagat’s “One Indian Girl”, but I didn’t count most of it as “reading”. I probed deeper to understand that my definition of reading has always been so influenced by what I have grown up learning, and so narrow, rigid and not inclusive – where reading a Marquez calls for appreciation, but reading a Bhagat justifies being made fun of.

And boy, I do know how snobbish readers like me love making fun of Bhagat. We wait for when his next book will release so we can decimate it. Heck, last year, a critic even called his latest a ‘dildo’. It’s like making fun of Bhagat is a testament to our intelligence as readers. We spend hours trying to come up with the best and most hilarious ways to take him on, while thousands are buying his books across bookstores, not giving a fuck about what we think or say. And here’s the thing – they never will.

By this, I don’t mean to say that the problems in Bhagat’s books should not be called out. Of course, they should be. I personally have a problem with his ideas about feminism, stereotyping his characters, and the sexist language he has used in the past, apart from many other things. What I am saying is that it’s important to also confront where we’re directing our angst – because it’s often possible that our criticism goes beyond just Bhagat, and ends up making fun of the thousands who relate with his books. I have realised I am not one to tell them that it’s not “real literature” they’re reading. 

Writing this piece takes me back to what a fellow intern at an NGO told me while reading “3 Mistakes Of My Life”: “I don’t want all this heavy literature, man! I am just happy that I am even reading a book.” She taught me something that makes so much more sense now: just because someone isn’t reading the book you are, it doesn’t mean they aren’t reading at all. I have been a snobbish reader and I am not proud of it. But it’s important for me to call myself out, and if it took 10 years and Chetan Bhagat to do that, then great, so be it!


Fellow readers, I’d love to hear what you thought of this post. Tweet to me with your comments @lipi_meh, and follow me on Youth Ki Awaaz. If you’ve had a similar experience or want to share a story about books and reading, just login here and publish.

You must be to comment.
  1. Khushwant Singh

    You are courageous enough to admit this, let me share a recent incident with you, recently I was at a book store when a middle aged woman entered and asked the shop owner for the latest copy of Arundhati Roy’s book, the shop owner gave her the copy of the latest book that she was demanding, she dug her handbag for the money and said “I think literary world is going through a terrible time, and the whole generation is ruined because of authors like Chetan bhagat” the shop owner smiled back and gave her the balance, as she walked out I read the expressions on the shopkeeper’s face, I realized the exact feelings must have crossed the mind of the shopkeeper.

More from Lipi Mehta

Similar Posts

By Jaya Pandey

By sukanya deogam

By Simran Poptani

Wondering what to write about?

Here are some topics to get you started

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

Sign up for the Youth Ki Awaaz Prime Ministerial Brief below