Bengaluru: Bengaluru author Anvita Bajpai could scarcely have foreseen her innocent gesture – handing Chetan Bhagat a copy of her book, Life, Odds & Ends at the Bangalore Literature Festival 2014 – resulting in a plagiarism charge three years later. “I gave him the book and sent him an email a few weeks later, asking if he had read it. I got no response at the time,” Bajpai told Deccan Chronicle. “People have been asking me if I took a selfie with him – I didn’t, unfortunately!”
Bajpai claims that Bhagat’s 2016 novel, One Indian Girl, plagiarises her short story, Drawing Parallels, from her collection published back in 2013. She sent Bhagat a legal notice on February 22 this year and a city civil court granted a temporary injunction against him, staying the sale of his book which has been brought out by Rupa Publications.
Bajpai, who awoke on Wednesday morning to find her social media accounts inundated with messages from supporters and critics alike, published a counter-rebuttal on her Facebook account later in the day. “My friends are upset about Bhagat calling me ‘someone’ in his post,” she explained in her note. “I smiled to myself – is his way of addressing me more important than the issue at hand? I’ve received many messages from the public too – but opinions don’t bother me unless they are verified – usually, everybody has one!”
She counters accusations of being money-minded, re-iterating the fact that she is a graduate of IIT Madras and IIM – Bengaluru, credentials that bear startling similarities to Bhagat’s own. “I have over 13 years of experiences with MNCs, startups and my own ventures. I have about 45 publications to my name including research papers, patents, business and technology articles. Given my technology background, if money is what I want, I should be coding, not writing!”
The plaintiff, Bajpai wrote, acknowledges that One Indian Girl has “Significant similarities in the story flow-development.” Both stories, for instance centre around a female protagonist who is trying to adjust to her new family circumstances and recalls her past two relationships to reconcile them with the third man in her life. “Both stories end at one of the seven wonders of the world, where the protagonist-female is shown to experience a balance of various aspects of her life with a third man,” she said.. Bhagat’s One Indian Girl also deals with a female protagonist who is trying to choose between three men and keep up appearances for her family, too.
Bhagat hacked out his defense on social media and denied all the allegations, referring to the city-based author as “someone called Anvita Bajpai.” He says, in his note: “This could be a misunderstanding and am sure will be clarified as what is being suggested is baseless. Surely, alleging anything like this in the current digital age is strange.”