Monday Musings 218 - Two things
The title may be a shameless rip off, but then who cares when the point I make it is original. Then I also ask myself what if the point is equally a rip off and I tell myself who cares as long as the articulation is new. Didn’t someone say, the tale is in the telling!
So here are the two things. The first one is actually a question that I wonder about. Let me share the set of questions first and then I will share what makes me wonder about it. What makes the beginning of a trend? When can one say that something or someone ‘created/started/ignited’ a thing which others picked up and soon many more started to do or talk or write about and hence one can safely call it a trend? What happens when established names, celebrities and icons pick up, accidentally or deliberately, what may have been dealt with already by a novice or a newbie, but by sheer virtue of their established stardom walk away with a lion’s share of the credit of having started the trend?
Three novels hit the Indian market in the last few months with practically the same theme, if not the same plot. The protagonists, male or female from the heartland of Bihar and their story of adjustments, trials, exploration and discovery in the hallowed corridors of the Delhi University. The contrast is pretty obvious – Bihar and its teeming millions, uncouth and desi in the popular imagination, an archetype popularized by the inimitable Lalu, set against the sophisticated and elitist Delhi university. Sparks had to fly! First came the bilingual ‘What a loser/Loser kahin ka’ by the new kid on the block, Pankaj Dubey, then came ‘Half Girlfriend’ by the celebrity author Chetan Bhagat and finally ‘Your dreams are mine now’ by Ravindra Singh, another established name.
So who started the trend of spotting that there is a story in pitching these contrasts against each other and weave a story around it? It is an amazing context that was begging to be explored. Imagine in erstwhile Hindi movies how class was the context that was juiced out for decades – the rich girl/poor boy or vice versa. The story itself was immaterial as much was the potential that such a contrast provided, something that was fascinating enough to be written about in the confidence that thousands will be keen to watch. The person who spotted this potential of the plot was a genius. Once spotted many more added their genius in exploring in multiple shades and nuances this basic plot. Pankaj Dubey, by that yardstick and in that sense, must take the credit for spotting the potential of the story that lies in the tales of thousands of students that come from mofussil India and what they go through in the elite educational institutions in the process of adjustments and integration. I also believe that the choice of making the protagonist from Bihar was equally a stroke of brilliance because Bihar represented the most entertaining version of that caricature. However a point must be made in haste, that for Pankaj, in contrast to the other two authors, it would have been not only a literary pursuit but also cathartic – for he himself was the Bihari in DU. Only he would really know where the shoe pinched. So take a bow Mr. Dubey for giving voice to people like us, who have had similar stories. (By the way I can offer you another plot – how about the deadly combination of being a sardar from bihar in big institutions – do you smell a book in that entertaining concoction? In case you do, do not forget to pay me royalty fee!!)
The second point that I wish to make is really how amazing this experience really is. I am sure across decades the student migrants from the belly of India into the hallowed campuses have engendered a hundred struggles. These struggles sometimes funny, sometimes tragic forge a personality or destroys it. The responses have been seamless assimilation or traumatic alienation or any shade in between these two extremes. The elite or the urban would never understand the impact of these struggles for this was never their journey to be understood or empathized and hence a non issue. I also know for sure that in hindsight most of these stories are happy stories because they leave the protagonist stronger and better placed to deal with that bitch/dog called life. This struggle may not be romantic or grand enough but for the person who has gone through it, is significant enough. So here is three cheers to all those from the hinterland who will land up to the urban universities in India every year with starry eyes, a desi heart and an ‘aluminum box on his head’