Thursday, 18 August 2011


After the Industrial revolution, the places where a group of people living
together on the principle of occupation, not dependent on agriculture for their
survival, were recognized as cities. Based on density of population ‘the area
having high density of population’ is called a city. The process of the
formation of cities is termed as urbanization.

This paper concentrates more prominently on the impact of urbanization on
literature and culture of India particularly in context with the novels of
Chetan Bhagat, a major voice of the urbanized, highly educated India .

The era in which Chetan Bhagat’s novels take place is when words like IT, BPO,
Call Centers were hooking the young generation like anything. The
metropolis was
developing a language and culture of its own. So to say, a new India was
emerging inside the ‘Bharat’.

Impact of urbanization on literature:

Urbanization, literature, and culture are reciprocal in nature, each
in its turn
affecting the other and getting affected itself. The major impact of
urbanization is felt on the language in which it is created. The
subject and the
treatment of literature undergo a drastic change. Due to increase in the number
of universities, colleges and schools, facilities like internet,
availability of
books, magazines, newspaper articles and many other such factors, which are
available in cities, the littérateurs find a forum for expression leading to
rampant spread of literature. The changing socio-political, economic, and
cultural atmosphere provides the aspiring writers with a wide variety
of subject
matters for their expression. The knowledge of global trends in literature and
literary criticism induces changes in the treatment, focus, and
attitude towards
literary activities. Opportunities in translation literature open up new vistas
in the field. The voices, which have been latent up till now, come to the
forefront, for instance, the dalit literature, writings of the women,
transgender, etc. At individual level, the expression of emotions, desires
become more transparent than ever. As a result of the nuclear family, a
by-product of urbanization, self-centeredness is much evident in literature. At
the same time, we find a social concern in the expression.

Impact of urbanization on culture:

Literature shows more vividly the changes urbanization has caused in cultural
aspects.  Under the influence of westernization and industrial culture, which
are a part and parcel of urbanization, the culture has undergone revolutionary
changes. A major revelation of this is found in the discussion of problems of
post post-modern society. The general depression, frustration and irritation,
which have been the identifying marks of the modern literature, are also found
here. A flamboyant openness of mind, naked expression of emotions, the new
generation hang outs are freely discussed without any inhibitions or under any
guise as done formerly. Education has evolved new sensibilities, leading to new
demands from life. The corporate culture and its pressures demand vent to the
repressed emotions. The all new awareness about hygiene – personal and social,
physical and mental, the growing culture of consumerism, changes in aesthetic
ideals, so to say a wholesome change in culture is to be witnessed.

In the present research paper, the above mentioned literary and
cultural changes
have been searched for within the context of four novels written by Chetan
Bhagat viz. ‘One night at call center’, ‘Three mistakes of my life’,
‘Five point
someone’ and ‘Two states’.


Chetan Bhagat, who began his journey as a writer in 2004, with ‘Five Point
Someone’ after graduating from IIT Delhi in 1995 and IIM from
Ahmedabad in 1997;
represents the new generation of writers writing in English about a mass of
people living in highly urbanised settings, enjoying myriads of ultra-modern
facilities and facing the pressures of hyperfast, competition-oriented life at
one and the same time. All his novels viz. ‘Five Point Someone’, ‘One Night At
Callcentre’, ‘The Three Mistakes of My Life’ and ‘Two States’ describe the pros
and cons of the life of rich, highly intellectual charactures living in major
metropolitan cities of the country.

With the rise of techno-savy generation of readers, Chetan Bhagat has already
become the prominent face of Indian writing in English.

“Chtan Bhagat is also responsible for a seismic shift in Indian writing in

 The Hindu
Urbanisation has provided the creative writers of today with a whole new range
of subjects apart from the old, traditional ones. unlike the heroes
and heroines
of novels written in the past, who mostly lived in the villages, small towns in
the joint families, believing in God, religion and humanity; we witness here a
character like Govind from ‘The Three Mistakes of My Life’ who declares himself
to be agnostic, or Vidya from the same novel who is delighted at having sex
before marriage and when she has not even completed eighteen years of her age,
or Ananya from ‘Two States’ who enjoys drinks and non-veg even after being born
and brought up in a rigid Tamil Brahmin family and expresses no guilt about it,
even we have Esha from ‘One Night at Callcentre’ who sleeps with
someone just to
get a modelling contract. Every character comes as a cultural shock to the
traditional minded readers. the readers may easily judge that upbringing in the
cities is at the root of all this.

The setting in which all the novels take place is obviously of the major
metropolitan cities of India. The characters are either from the IITs , IIMs or
some of the most reputed academic institutions

One of the most visible impact of urbanisation on literature is seen on the
language used for creative writing. The language is more youthful,
simple at the
same time vibrant, direct sometimes to the extent of bare, abusive and
too naked and transparant. It most probably is the reaction to the stressful
life in the cities - continuously under the threat for survival in this cut
throat competition. The questions for existence are so great and complicated
that nobody has any time left for verbatim. The eternal restlessness of the
generation vents itself out in the form of naked expressions and use of abusive
language. Another reason probably is the materialistic approache of
Awareness of one’s own needs, long suppression due to family and social
restrictions, lack of privacy, exposure through media,working parents who can’t
spare any time for their children; whatever the reasons, the new generation is
boldly expressing itself without any taboos. The openness in language is also
seen in the thought process and attitude towards one’s own life and one’s

The new jobs which emerged as a result of industrialisation and urbanisation
provided the new generation with unprecedented amounts of money resulting in
unheared of facililties including cosy housing, cars, cellphones, clothes and
accessories etc. All the novels of Chetan Bhagat are full of descriptions of
lavish exhibition of wealth and riches. To cater to the needs of high class
people living in the cities, advancements have been made in the modes of
communication and transportation, which find due mention in the above said
The most vivid impact of urbanisation in cultural matters is seen on the
treatment of women. Though, all the novels are male character- oriented, women
characters are satisfactorily justified. They are not portrayed merely in
supplemental roles as before. Now the women don’t merely acquiescently conform
to whatever the male characters say. they are projected as
independent, standing
on their own feet, taking their own decisions, taking initiative; so to say,
living a life of their own. Going to publs, discos, having drinks, wearing
clothes of their choice, having sex does not appear in these novels as a
technique to create sensation or any kind of eroticism. According to
me it comes
as an assertion of selfhood,being and having a separate entity of their own.

Another prominent feature of urbanization appears in the form of disintegration
of family structure. Joint families are now certainly a thing of the past. But
even in nuclear families we find that the unsurmountable tensions of city life
and demanding jobs have evolved into an estrangement among family members.
According to the old people, like Ananya’s relatives in ‘Two States’, human
beings have become so selfish and self-centred that they only think about their
own happiness. Priyanks’s mom, Ananya’s parents, Krish’s mother, all think that
their children are concerned with only their own happiness.

On a deeper, psychological level, urbanization has struck the whole generation
with mental unrest. The urge to survive in the competitive world, a constant
guilt about neglecting families, awaiting deadlines, a frantic race for money
and standard; all these factors call for eternal restlessness, nervous
breakdown, anti-depressants or in many cases suicides. In novels like ‘Three
Mistakes of My Life’ or ‘Two States’ to some extent the protagonists seek death
as a solace from all the problems. To worsen the matter, due to rupture in
family relations, we in the present cities don’t have anything called family
support systems. Radhika in ‘One Night at Call Centre’ pops up heavy doses of
anti-depressants; intoxication, sex, suicidal attempts, all come as
respite from
disturbed and lonely state of mind. Krish in ‘Two States’ tries to starve
himself to death or dip himself neck deep in work than to face his or Ananya’s
family. Lack of communication between Krish and his father, Ish and his father
in ‘Three Mistakes of My Life’, play a pivotal role in worsening the
matters. On
the other hand social networking sites which are mentioned quite often in the
novels under study come as a compensation for the lack of communication.
On the other hand, especially through novels like ‘One Night at Call Center’,
one gets the feeling that in the cities under the influence of hollow
everyone has a sour nerve which everybody tries to hide form others. In case of
Radhika it is estrangement from her husband who is cheating on her, whereas in
case of Shyam it’s a total loser feeling, for Esha it is a guilt conscious,
while Military Uncle wants to hide the tense nature of the relationships with
his own family.

The impact of information overflow is also visible through these novels. For
instance, the impact of recession in ‘One Night at Call Centre’ or the
impact of
falling of twin towers or the Godhra incident in ‘The Three Mistakes of My
Life’, highlights the widespread of information within a short span and its
Though, all the novels under study highlight the impact of urbanization on art,
culture and literature, they do so only within a restricted circumference i.e.
impact on the lives of elite classes. They have, knowingly or unknowingly,
neglected the more serious, universal impact of urbanization on the weaker
sections of the society who also lives in the cities. The more disturbing
aspects of city life due to concentration of people near industries, like
squalid slums, infrastructure problems, basic needs of food, clothing and
shelter alongwith health, hygiene and education have not been taken into
account. Even, other aspects of city life like unemployment, corruption, crime
and politics have been ignored.
To sum up we may say that all the four novels written by Chetan Bhagat, present
a peripheral view of the impact of urbanization on the elite sections of the
urban society.
                                                             MAHESH TARMALE 
                                                             DR. MANISH KUMAR MISHRA


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