Bestselling English Author: I Write About an India That the West Is Not Interested In

Artist Chetan Bhagat attends the TIME 100 gala celebrating the 100 most influential people, at the Time Warner Center, Tuesda
Artist Chetan Bhagat attends the TIME 100 gala celebrating the 100 most influential people, at the Time Warner Center, Tuesday, May 4, 2010 in New York. (AP Photo/Evan Agostini)

Chetan Bhagat, a 39-year-old author in India, has been phenomenally successful, with six English books selling 7 million copies and four adapted into successful Bollywood movies. And yet, many in the West don't know who he is.

Indian society discriminates between the good English speakers and the not-so-good ones. English is the new caste system, complete with levels of proficiency translating to various levels to elitism.

However, because I write in simple English, my books have managed to be a bridge between Indians who speak English well and Indians who speak little English. I am fortunate to have a wide reach of readers, including Indians irrespective of age, gender, class or location. All sects can read and enjoy my books. My books democratize the language.

My simple stories are set in contemporary India and reflect society as it is today. And that may be one reason why the West is not so interested in me. I write the actual reality of India, versus the exotic India Westerners would rather read about. My characters are looking for jobs while falling in love. They are career-oriented, ambitious and have modern values. Who wants to read about such Indians -- those who work in multinational banks and shop in malls?

The India that has sold abroad is typically India with lotus ponds and simple villagers. Those who ride elephants and climb up coconut trees and that is all they want to do in life. You won't find them in my books. If there is a villager in my book, chances are he will be visiting a cyber café, checking his phone or trying to get ahead in life. Don't know if the West is ready for or interested in that India.

I write to bring about change in my country, towards the direction of economic progress, a fairer society and more respect for the individual and his or her freedom. These changes are desperately required in my country. I wrap my easy-read stories around these issues and that is how I feel I can contribute towards my nation.

And my books have had an impact on some readers. For instance, I wrote a book, 2 States, about a couple from two different states of India and the parental opposition to their wedding. After reading the book, the father of a girl in the same situation changed his mind. He allowed his daughter to marry her boyfriend, ending a two-year long bitter, acrimonious opposition. The girl's father even set up a stall in the wedding function, offering all guests a copy of the book 2 States.

Perhaps this also partly explains limited awareness about my work in the West. I have never really aspired to that goal. To change India, we have to change the mindsets of Indians.

Look: India