What happens when you ask Chetan Bhagat, India’s highest-selling author in English, writer of Five Point Someone – What Not to Do at IIT!, One Night @ the Call Center and The 3 Mistakes of My Life, to write a short story?
You get a story that goes straight to the heart of one of the biggest issues young people face today. Chetan Bhagat tells us about his very first short story...
Had you ever considered writing a short story before?
Not too much. I find it hard to do. I can do articles for newspapers, but not short fiction. I’m always scared of short stories because the kind of stories I like to tell really go deep into the characters. And besides, there’s no real place to publish short stories.
So what was it like, writing this story for 'Brunch' at our invitation?
The best part was the free hand you gave me. Aside from that, although you had clearly asked me for fiction, because Brunch is part of the Hindustan Times – a newspaper – it gave me the chance to make a comment on something relevant. Otherwise, writing a short story for the sake of it would have just been an exercise in showmanship. It made sense to use the power of this newspaper together with my storytelling strength to make a comment.
Why did you choose this topic – of exam results?
Higher education has become a big issue. There have been many articles about it, quoting intelligent opinions and many statistics, but all these things don’t connect as well as a story would. A story puts faces and names to people who are suffering and a problem can be understood only if you know someone who’s going through it. We’ve done a lousy job of higher education and it’s high time we acknowledged that and did something about it. In a sense, what I’ve written is not really fiction. Kids are ready to kill themselves over marks.
You haven’t made the story bleak, however.
Yes. People would probably consider it a greater piece of art if the ending were depressing, but I’ve made the choice to go for happy endings in all my stories. If you read a story with a happy ending, you’re happy for the character and more likely to be positive about yourself.
Now that you’ve actually written a short story, do you think you’ll write others?
Well… it can be a powerful tool. But there are not enough places to have short stories published.