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  Books   06 Apr 2024  Book Review | Anatomy of an Indian self-help guide

Book Review | Anatomy of an Indian self-help guide

THE ASIAN AGE. | ANKIT RATH
Published : Apr 6, 2024, 2:45 pm IST
Updated : Apr 6, 2024, 2:45 pm IST

Chetan Bhagat knows his audience well and has catered to their needs quite flawlessly for over a decade now

Cover page of 11 Rules for Life: Secrets to Level Up
 Cover page of 11 Rules for Life: Secrets to Level Up

One summer afternoon, you are hungry. You crave some rajma-chawal, so you place an order online. But it is 30 minutes late. You are now starving. After a while, a sweaty, out-of-breath delivery partner knocks on your door. What do you do? I would not know. But I surely know what Chetan Bhagat would do! He would sit them down, ask them about their day, and plan an 11-day masterclass on improving themselves.

The Indian public has always been rather keen on self-development, primarily as a consequence of industrial growth under the looming shadow of Western ideals. The average Indian reader’s shelf contains titles such as the classics, Think and Grow Rich; Rich Dad, Poor Dad; 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, and more contemporarily, The 5 AM Club; Attitude is Everything; Can’t Hurt Me; 12 Rules for Life, among others. The numbers (Rs 1,200-crore annual sales (2015 statistics)) have attracted Western self-help gurus to target the Indian market since the late 2000s, marking the beginning of the “Indian self-help” genre. Shiv Khera, Deepak Chopra, and the like have later shaped and refined the genre further. One, therefore, might not be surprised by this attempt at dipping his fingers in this river of gold by one of the most commercially successful Indian authors.

Chetan Bhagat knows his audience well and has catered to their needs quite flawlessly for over a decade now. So, in 11 Rules for Life: Secrets to Level Up, too, he has played to his strengths: Bhagat’s signature brand of storytelling combined with tried-and-tested practical advice, both of which are welcomed by his readership. Unlike many others, he avoids any one-size-fits-all approach but imparts pieces of advice and nuggets of wisdom resulting from a careful analysis of the Indian lifestyle. Although the part-biographical, part-fictional sections, where he talks to his Zomato delivery person may at times seem lacklustre, they serve well the purpose of setting an example of how each of us may begin to approach the problems thus addressed.

11 Rules for Life, even from the title, echoes Jordan Peterson, while the book in itself also resounds Robert Kiyosaki and Shwetabh Gangwar. Bhagat, while drawing from the mentioned authors, employs a more Indian vocabulary (words like gyaan and aukaat, which, though often translated as “wisdom” and “status”, do not carry the same cultural baggage). This makes the book a more culturally relevant choice. To add, the aforesaid semi-fictional parts run like a Bollywood rags-to-riches story, further raising the relatability factor; an important aspect in self-help books, in general.

The author, through 11 Rules for Life, aims to help the larger, less privileged, section of the Indian demographic who may or may not have the access to necessary skills to “level up”. Thus, making this book a beginner-friendly, no-bullshit guide to self-improvement and scaling the socio-economic ladder.

Ankit Rath is editor of The Biblioraptor and an independent researcher

11 Rules for Life: Secrets to Level Up

By Chetan Bhagat

HarperCollins India

pp. 256, Rs 250

 

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