The quality of students entering Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) has deteriorated over the years due to the coaching classes that prepare engineering aspirants, said N.R. Narayana Murthy a few days ago.
I don’t know how IIT entrance exams are cracked, having never taken them myself. So I can’t get into the rights or wrongs of the statement. Neither do I know about IIMs, of which Chetan Bhagat — writer of bestsellers, commentator on all issues from here to eternity, and precocious yet unwanted distributor of observations within or out of his grasp — is an alumnus. So if tomorrow someone makes a comment on that, I will be equally at a loss.
But after reading a couple of books of Bhagat, and reading his (worse) columns in newspapers, I seriously doubt the intellect of at least one IIT graduate in our country.
Chetan Bhagat is dangerously close to being the next Arundhati Roy. Worse, perhaps. Roy at least can write in good prose whatever she writes. Bhagat can’t write to save his life. And yet he is present everywhere — on TV, in newspapers and on bestseller book covers: with his trademark half smile and half-closed eyes, as if he is sneering at all of us from his pedestal at our collective lack of intellect.
Chetan Bhagat writes mediocre books (One Night at a Call Centre was downright stupid), thinks mediocre (read his columns in The Times of India or Hindustan Times) uses a language which is worse than mediocre (to get the undiluted, unedited version of his English, read his blogs and yet he and the media think he is some super-intelligent youth icon.
He has even been ranked by Time magazine as one of the top 100 most influential people. Though I wonder whose lives he influences!
Nevertheless, he thinks he has become an authority to comment on anything happening in and around the country: from the politics in our country, to the values inherent in Indian society, to the Indian corporate system, to the Lokpal Bill, to corruption in India, and right down to the quality of education in IITs. When you don’t see him giving his valuable opinion on TV shows, he is penning them down for his newspaper columns or, scarier still, his blogs.
I am a non-tech person and, again, I don’t have any idea about what Infosys is all about work wise. Chetan Bhagat may be right in calling it a body shop, and again I am not getting into the rights or wrongs of it. But what is extremely irritating is Bhagat’s habit of opening his mouth at the drop of a hat. As an elderly statesman and as the founder of one of the top technology organisations in the country, Murthy has a right to pass comments about the quality of education in the IITs, or any other technology/engineering institutes in the country. He hasn’t said anything personal about anyone and only come down hard on the coaching system.
Why is Chetan Bhagat taking it so personally? Is it because he himself is a product of such a system? We all are loyal to our alma maters, yes, and Bhagat’s grief is understandable. But what is bugging is the way he shoots his mouth off and uses the words that least of all a writer should use.
Even if Infosys is a body shop, what’s wrong in it? Why launch a virtual personal attack? Murthy never claimed it is the best innovating company on the planet.
But Bhagat doesn’t stop here. He then follows it up with downright juvenile “apology”: “Oh and dear Infoscians, I am sorry. You are not a bodyshop. You just have hot bodies. Forgive me. I am an idiot sometimes. Now smile.” (Read: Forgive me, I am an idiot sometimes, says Chetan Bhagat)
Just what kind of language is that? Was he serious? Was he doped? What is wrong with him? As the mother of a child in Class III, all I can say this is third standard level wit and third standard level attitude.
Not long ago Bhagat had created a flutter when he rattled the normally quiet and polite Gulzar to get into a fit of rage. Gulzar was so annoyed with his comments that he asked for the microphone out of turn at a function and said: “Chetan, I am glad that an author like you has liked the song. But I don’t think you have understood the poetry that you are trying to talk about here… Please don’t say things you don’t know about. Comment about things you know.” (Read: Lyricist Gulzar lashes out at Chetan Bhagat)
Chetan Bhagat giving expert comments on Gulzar’s poetry is like the guy teaching my son music commenting on Lata Mangeshkar’s singing prowess! Some people just don’t think, or think they are too smart. Bhagat’s problem is either of these.
Coming back to the issue at hand, what is Chetan Bhagat’s own great achievement and contribution to technology in India? Yes, he perhaps had the intelligence to the crack the exams (and after reading his books and now Murthy’s comments, we know how and why) but he switched track to get into management from there. Then he again switched to work as an investment banker. And finally, he gave all that up to become a writer.
What has been contribution other than wasting two precious seats in premium state-funded institutions? Isn’t it what we call a waste of subsidy? And why do we need valuable opinion from a person who has made bad English, worse writing style and pathetic plots a virtue?