Any youngster in India who hasn't heard of Chetan Bhagat must have been camping in Siberia since 2004 ' when his first book came out.
India's only author whose books sell in millions, Bhagat who was on Delhi Public School campus in Bokaro on Wednesday to give away prizes to budding storytellers (see chart), also inaugurated the Writers' Guild, a first for the industrial city.
Bhagat's books ' Five Point Someone, One Night @ the Call Center, The 3 Mistakes of My Life, 2 States and Revolution 2020: Love, Corruption, Ambition ' were outright chart-busters and redefined the economics of Indian publishing in English.
Before Bhagat, an Indian English writer selling 5,000-plus copies of a book was a best-seller. Bhagat's books sell in lakhs. But, the man who has made India sit up and read asked students to read a wide variety of books beyond the ones in their schoolbag.
"It is only reading that can give a perfect blend of heart, brain and soul that develops your personality and forces you to think," said the popular writer who was once an investment banker.
Traces of it remain. Bhagat makes no bones about the fact that he feels books the best investment for any youngster.
"Once you enter professional life, no matter whether you are an engineer, doctor, businessman, politician, scientist or IAS officer, if you are the one who has read more, you can talk more and will have more ideas," he said.
This pragmatic view sets Bhagat apart from the rest of the culture bandwagon.
In fact, no one knows the aspirations of small- town young India like Bhagat does.
For Bokaro's career-driven children, hardwired to believe that science stands for success, reading for sheer pleasure takes a backseat.
Youngsters mostly cram for entrance examinations, almost like Bhagat's character Gopal in Revolution 2020.
In their free time, teens are usually hooked to Facebook, Twitter, gaming and hundreds of TV channels.
To counter this reality, Bhagat, whose newest work is What Young India Wants, spoke in their language.
He logically pointed out how other forms of entertainment did not give brains a workout. He extolled reading as a brainy exercise that could help teens realise their aspirations.
"Imagination develops through reading. If one meets two very successful persons, one will be impressed with the one who has read more books. People who read and who don't can be differentiated. Books force one to think," he said.
Bhagat also used his self-deprecating brand of humour to redefine success.
"I got only 76 per cent marks in X boards. This wouldn't have allowed me to even enter DPS Bokaro. Here students fetch much more marks. After more slogging, I got 85 per cent marks in Class XIIth. It can't be called good. But I cultivated the habit of reading which has given me name, fame and even money," he said.
He added that watching TV serials or chatting on Facebook didn't force anyone to think seriously and asked his listeners to take the pledge of reading daily.
Bhagat also gave away prizes in poetry and fiction to the winners of an inter-school writing contest in which 16 cradles took part.