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Ashok Burman is a worried man. The phone at his Park Street bookshop is ringing off the hook and he doesn't want to answer. "They want to know if Chetan Bhagat's new book has arrived and I have no answer. The consignments of the book have reached all the other metros but are yet to arrive in Kolkata. We have ordered more than a thousand books and our customers are impatient," says Burman, proprietor of The Family Bookshop.
Chetan Bhagat's new book, 2 States, will be the source of tension for many such booksellers across the country. Impatient fans, incessant phone calls and relentless questions. But they are not complaining. "It's good to be harassed by customers; it means we are doing business. God bless the man," smiles Burman.
Bless him indeed, for Chetan Bhagat is nothing less than a phenomenon in India. His story of campus life, Five Point Someone, published in 2004, and a later novel, One Night @ the Call Center, sold a combined one million copies. One Night... sold more than 50, 000 copies within a week making it the fastest-selling book in the country, and was made into a Salman Khan starrer. His Five Point Someone is being made into an Aamir Khan-Kareena Kapoor film. Little wonder then that his latest release has generated such an furore.
"His books sell like hot cakes. No other Indian author can even come close to him when it comes to saleability. To give you an idea, let me cite an example. Anurag Mathur's Inscrutable Americans is an all time bestseller for us. But Bhagat's books outsell him on any given day," says Raju Burman of Rupa & Co, the publishers of all Bhagat books.
Yet, the literary merits of Bhagat's books have always been a point of debate. "Many feel that his language is too casual and his plots are wafer thin. But I feel he speaks the language of the masses. This is why he is so popular with college kids and even housewives," says Chitralekha Chatterjee a final year student with Bhawanipore College.