I never thought I would suddenly find myself craving a shot of Chetan Bhagat.
Not Bhagat in particular but that whole genre for which he is regarded as the literary godfather--the Sudeep Nagarkars, Durjoy Dattas, Ravinder Singhs--those books that many of us dismiss as un-literary time-pass. The genre that has produced rip-roaring bestsellers despite, or perhaps because of, lines like these:
I took a strawberry and rolled it all over her. She could no longer hold herself... He plundered her neck, planting as many kisses as raindrops on the window.
Losers get words from girls, winners get kisses.
Deep Kalra is your average Delhi Dude. Deep grew up in a typical private sector home; very comfortable.
And for a section heading--Three more years later.
But you know what, at least it's not this.
The common day experiences indeed do introduce one with unfailing regularity, the variegated cancerous concoctions of corruption with fearless impunity gnawing into the frame and fabric of the nation's essential.
Innovative nuances of evidential inadequacies, processual infirmities and interpretational subtleties, artfully advanced in defence, otherwise intangible and inconsequential, ought to be conscientiously cast aside with moral maturity and singular sensitivity to uphold the statutory sanctity, lest the coveted code of justice is a causality.
Say what? Exactly. Those are just two little snippets from the V.K. Sasikala judgement that is much in the news these days. "There's English... & then there's Indian judicial English," quipped writer Tunku Varadarajan as he shared an excerpt on Twitter.
It's not just this judgement. There's this one.
The national anthem is pivotal and centripodal to the basic conception of sovereignty and integrity of India. It is the marrow of nationalism, hypostasis of patriotism, nucleus of national heritage, substratum of culture and epitome of national honour.
And one which Varadarajan described as "Judgement by Thesaurus".
This batch of writ petitions preferred under Article 32 of the Constitution of India exposits cavil in its quintessential conceptuality and percipient discord between the venerated and exalted right of freedom of speech and expression of an individual, exploring manifold and multilayered, limitless, unbounded and unfettered spectrums, and the controls, restrictions and constrictions, under the assumed power of "reasonableness" ingrained in the statutory provisions relating to criminal law to reviver and uphold one's reputation.
Admit it, you skipped through that, didn't you?
But aren't you getting a little thirsty for some Chetan Bhagat right now? If the likes of Bhagat are accused of never getting out of the shallow end of the pool, our judges seem to delight in tossing us into the deep end where we can be hopelessly entangled in alliterative algae while polysyllabic piranhas attack from all sides.
If the likes of Bhagat are accused of never getting out of the shallow end of the pool, our judges seem to delight in tossing us into the deep end...
Not that long ago, there was a proposal that all journalists who report on court proceedings should have a degree in law recognized by the Bar Council of India. But given some of the extra long-winded arguments, a thesaurus would be more useful for those hapless journalists. My heart goes out to anyone who has to wade through that thicket and cull, parse and select.
Former Supreme Court judge Ruma Pal has noted this. At the V.M. Tarkunder Memorial lecture she ticked off what she saw as the seven sins of the Indian judiciary. One of those, she said, was "plagiarism and prolixity – meaning that very often SC judges lift whole passages from earlier decisions by their predecessors and do not acknowledge this and use long-winded verbose language."
The court is not unaware of this verbal diarrhea problem. In 2014 sources in the Supreme Court said the need was for "crisp judgements focusing only on facts" and "lean, to-the-point judgments delivered in quick time."
The court is not unaware of this verbal diarrhea problem.
But it seems hard to avoid those "fatty judgements". It's as if the verbosity has become regarded as the marker of erudition, as if the seriousness of the issue at hand can only be measured in paragraphs. More than anything else it's English wielded almost as a weapon of shock and awe meant to stun the reader into glazed submission. It's language erected as a grand edifice, the more forbidding the better.
It's language erected as a grand edifice, the more forbidding the better.
In a way the success of a Chetan Bhagat is a reaction to exactly this kind of pontificating English – rendered almost deliberately indigestible. Is it a surprise that for millions of Indians, Bhagat's homespun English comes as a breath of fresh air? It might sound like it's been put through some IIT-IIM blender, it might be dismissed as pablum but at least it's easily digestible. It does not make its readers feel like illiterate fools. It caters to them. It does not talk down to them. It readily makes sense. That's why those books are bestsellers. The upcoming generation of Indian readers "may not read Salman Rushdie but they will read Chetan Bhagat whose simple prose and crisp storytelling draws the newly educated," writes publisher Chiki Sarkar. "So my first prediction is that we will have more Chetan Bhagats."
Whether that augurs well for Indian literature or not, I hope the influence of those Chetan Bhagats of the future will percolate to the judiciary as well, reminding our honourable judges that simple and crisp does not have to mean shallow and that all of us would benefit from being able to read and understand a judgement.
Simple and crisp does not have to mean shallow....
Of course there is a risk it could get a little carried away like this: Spring season is a time when nature becomes green and flower blooms in all colours. This spring why the colour of peace is eluding the prestigious Jawaharlal Nehru University situated in the heart of Delhi needs to be answered by its students, faculty members and those managing the affairs of this national university.
But the need for simplicity should override all fears. Perhaps a creative writing class by Mr. Bhagat for our esteemed judiciary might not be a bad idea at all. As Sasikala understands now, disproportionate assets are not a good idea and neither is English as a disproportionate asset.
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