Chetan Bhagat
Chetan Bhagat at the Sharjah Book Fair on Saturday evening. Image Credit: Gulf News

Sharjah: “Every child has a phone these days, and we don’t know who they are talking to.”

When bestselling Indian author Chetan Bhagat says this, he does it with a reason.

Speaking to Gulf News in an exclusive interview ahead of the launch of his book 400 Days at the Sharjah Book Fair on Saturday evening, Bhagat said the book, a romantic thriller where a mum and a detective fall in love, is essentially about a missing 12-year-old child.

400 Days
400 Days, the latest book written by Chetan Bhagat, is about a missing 12-year-old girl.

“We never let our children talk to strangers when we are out with them, but we have no idea who they are talking to over the phone. They could be speaking to anyone from anywhere in the world,” he says, noting that parental controls can never be fool proof as people masquerading with fake accounts could get the better of them.

“We’re not discussing this enough,” says Bhagat.

Asked what the solution is, he says: “Good communication and emotional connection between parents and their children are very important.”

Social media and reading

Now, is social media a bad influence? And has it replaced reading?

He says we are living in an age of digital content, where everyone is grasping for instant attention and gratification. According to him, social media has indeed affected reading, but not all is lost, as one must consciously strive to reclaim the reading habit.

“Reading builds focus, it builds imagination. You need imagination because you have to imagine a life for yourself,” says the author of nine-blockbuster books, adding that he writes gripping stories with lots of layers for this very reason.

Read more

So how does one get back to reading or cultivate the habit in the first place?

“You just have to tell yourself that reading is good and believe in it. You have to put your phone aside for some time every day and make the choice of reading,” he says. The outcome will naturally follow.

“It’s the same with physical fitness, eating right or sleeping on time. You tell yourself it is a good habit, believe in it, exercise the choice and experience the outcome.”

Sharjah Book Fair a five star event, yet for the masses

Asked why he chose Sharjah for the launch of 400 Days, he says: “The Sharjah Book Fair is the best event on earth. It’s a five star event, yet for the masses.”

He says post-pandemic, this is his first live event and the first release of a book.

“Sharjah is very special to me. I have been here five times since 2011. Post pandemic, everyone has been dying to be at an actual event. It’s nice to dress up and get back to a normal life.”