Chetan Bhagat’s speech at Symbiosis

Following is the speech by Chetan Bhagat given at the orientation programme for the new batch of MBA students at Symbiosis, Pune.

Good Morning everyone and thank you for giving me this chance to speak to you. This day is about you. You, who have come to this college, leaving the comfort of your homes (or in some cases discomfort), to become something in your life. I am sure you are excited. There are few days in human life when one is truly elated.  The first day in college is one of them.  When you were getting ready today, you felt a tingling in your stomach. What would the auditorium be like, what would the teachers be like, who are my new classmates – there is so much to be curious about. I call this excitement, the spark within you that makes you feel truly alive today. Today I am going to talk about keeping the spark shining. Or to put it another way, how to be happy most, if not all the time.

Where do these sparks start? I think we are born with them. My 3-year old twin boys have a million sparks. A little Spiderman toy can make them jump on the bed. They get thrills from creaky swings in the park. A story from daddy gets them excited. They do a daily countdown for birthday party – several months in advance – just for the day they will cut their own birthday cake.

I see students like you, and I still see some sparks. But when I see older people, the spark is difficult to find. That means as we age, the spark fades. People whose spark has faded too much are dull, dejected, aimless and bitter. Remember Kareena in the first half of Jab We Met vs the second half? That is what happens when the spark is lost.   So how to save the spark?

Imagine the spark to be a lamp’s flame. The first aspect is nurturing – to give your spark the fuel, continuously. The second is to guard against storms.

To nurture, always have goals. It is human nature to strive, improve and achieve full potential. In fact, that is success. It is what is possible for you. It isn’t any external measure – a certain cost to company pay package, a particular car or house.

Most of us are from middle class families. To us, having material landmarks is success and rightly so. When you have grown up where money constraints force everyday choices, financial freedom is a big achievement. But it isn’t the purpose of life. If that was the case, Mr. Ambani would not show up for work. Shah Rukh Khan would stay at home and not dance anymore. Steve Jobs won’t be working hard to make a better iPhone, as he sold Pixar for billions of dollars already. Why do they do it? What makes them come to work everyday? They do it because it makes them happy. They do it because it makes them feel alive Just getting better from current levels feels good. If you study hard, you can improve your rank. If you make an effort to interact with people, you will do better in interviews. If you practice, your cricket will get better. You may also know that you cannot become Tendulkar, yet. But you can get to the next level. Striving for that next level is important.

Nature designed with a random set of genes and circumstances in which we were born. To be happy, we have to accept it and make the most of nature’s design. Are you? Goals will help you do that. I must add, don’t just have career or academic goals. Set goals to give you a balanced, successful life. I use the word balanced before successful. Balanced means ensuring your health, relationships, mental peace are all in good order.

There is no point of getting a promotion on the day of your breakup. There is no fun in driving a car if your back hurts. Shopping is not enjoyable if your mind is full of tensions.

You must have read some quotes – Life is a tough race, it is a marathon or whatever. No, from what I have seen so far, life is one of those races in nursery school, where you have to run with a marble in a spoon kept in your mouth. If the marble falls, there is no point coming first. Same with life, where health and relationships are the marble. Your striving is only worth it if there is harmony in your life. Else, you may achieve the success, but this spark, this feeling of being excited and alive, will start to die.

One last thing about nurturing the spark – don’t take life seriously. One of my yoga teachers used to make students laugh during classes. One student asked him if these jokes would take away something from the yoga practice. The teacher said – don’t be serious, be sincere. This quote has defined my work ever since. Whether its my writing, my job, my relationships or any of my goals. I get thousands of opinions on my writing everyday. There is heaps of praise, there is intense criticism. If I take it all seriously, how will I write? Or rather, how will I live? Life is not to be taken seriously, as we are really temporary here. We are like a pre-paid card with limited validity. If we are lucky, we may last another 50 years. And 50 years is just 2,500 weekends. Do we really need to get so worked up? It’s ok, bunk a few classes, goof up a few interviews, fall in love. We are people, not programmed devices.

I’ve told you three things – reasonable goals, balance and not taking it too seriously that will nurture the spark. However, there are four storms in life that will threaten to completely put out the flame. These must be guarded against. These are disappointment, frustration, unfairness and loneliness of purpose.

Disappointment will come when your effort does not give you the expected return. If things don’t go as planned or if you face failure. Failure is extremely difficult to handle, but those that do come out stronger. What did this failure teach me? is the question you will need to ask. You will feel miserable. You will want to quit, like I wanted to when nine publishers rejected my first book. Some IITians kill themselves over low grades – how silly is that? But that is how much failure can hurt you. But it’s life. If challenges could always be overcome, they would cease to be a challenge. And remember – if you are failing at something, that means you are at your limit or potential. And that’s where you want to be.

Disappointment’ s cousin is  Frustration, the second storm.  Have you ever been frustrated? It happens when things are stuck. This is especially relevant in India. From traffic jams to getting that job you deserve, sometimes things take so long that you don’t know if you chose the right goal. After books, I set the goal of writing for Bollywood, as I thought they needed writers. I am called extremely lucky, but it took me five years to get close to  a release. Frustration saps excitement, and turns your initial energy into something negative, making you a bitter person. How did I deal with it? A realistic assessment of the time involved – movies take a long time to make even though they are watched quickly, seeking a certain enjoyment in the process rather than the end result – at least I was learning how to write scripts, having a side plan – I had my third book to write and even something as simple as pleasurable distractions in your life – friends, food, travel can help you overcome it. Remember, nothing is to be taken seriously. Frustration is a sign somewhere, you took it too seriously.

Unfairness – this is hardest to deal with, but unfortunately that is how our country works. People with connections, rich dads, beautiful faces, pedigree find it easier to make it – not just in Bollywood, but everywhere. And sometimes it is just plain luck. There are so few opportunities in India, so many stars need to be aligned for you to make it happen. Merit and hard work is not always linked to achievement in the short term, but the long term correlation is high, and ultimately things do work out. But realize, there will be some people luckier than you. In fact, to have an opportunity to go to college and understand this speech in English means you are pretty damm lucky by Indian standards. Let’s be grateful for what we have and get the strength to accept what we don’t. I have so much love from my readers that other writers cannot even imagine it. However, I don’t get literary praise. It’s ok. I don’t look like Aishwarya Rai, but I have two boys who I think are more beautiful than her. It’s ok. Don’t let unfairness kill your spark.

Finally, the last point that can kill your spark is Isolation. As you grow older you will realize you are unique. When you are little, all kids want Ice cream and Spiderman. As you grow older to college, you still are a lot like your friends. But ten years later and you realize you are unique. What you want, what you believe in, what makes you feel, may be different from even the people closest to you. This can create conflict as your goals may not match with others. And you may drop some of them. Basketball captains in college invariably stop playing basketball by the time they have their second child. They give up something that meant so much to them. They do it for their family. But in doing that, the spark dies. Never, ever make that compromise. Love yourself first, and then others.

There you go. I’ve told you the four thunderstorms – disappointment, frustration, unfairness and isolation. You cannot avoid them, as like the monsoon they will come into your life at regular intervals. You just need to keep the raincoat handy to not let the spark die.

I welcome you again to the most wonderful  years of your life. If someone gave me the choice to go back in time, I will surely choose college. But I also hope that ten years later as well, your eyes will shine the same way as they do today. That you will Keep the Spark alive, not only through college, but through the next 2,500 weekends. And I hope not just you, but my whole country will keep that spark alive, as we really need it now more than any moment in history. And there is something cool about saying – I come from the land of a billion sparks.

Thank You.

Chetan Bhagat

SImple and to the point and just hitting where it should. I like his approach and way of working. He is no doubt an intelligent and a practical man.


94 thoughts on “Chetan Bhagat’s speech at Symbiosis

  1. Pingback: It’s My Way OR the Highway ! « Thirteenthnight’s Weblog

  2. Best of words that i’ve ever heard. Its definetely going to make me understand life better. All subtle thoughts that always streams your mind are expressed. Thank you so much !!

  3. arent he mentioned the things that we all know , but he is a wonderful players of words and hence he inlighted the SPARK.

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  5. C.B truly ROCKS !
    He had understood the very facts of life. His insight is just perfect. He is an astute pinpointer. The way in which he jumbled up the basic problems and their solution, in words is just mesmerising.
    He peneterates in your mind,and ignite that so called gradually dying SPARK !
    He is worthy of receiving kudos.
    What he told us , should be reminded and put into action.
    Hats off to C.B. !!

  6. Splendid!!!

    Excellent way to be alive our routine existence with charming sparkles and to deal with foreseeable thunderstorms.

    “Don’t be serious, be sincere” Nurture the SPARK!

  7. i adore chetan as a reader….but his recent speech was a lot inspired by the famous sppech on the art of commencement by alan alda the famous hollywood actor in connecticut college back in 1980…chetan has rather copied most of it and tried to make it sound like his piece of creation…this is the link to the marvelous speech by alan alda…do give it a read….it does teaches you the true meaning of like……..
    its one of the best sppeches i have ever read….n i think even chetan bhagat has ever read…but this kind of silly act wasn’t expected from chetan …..i want him to cum up wid more new stuff rather thn copying some one….
    sooraj sharma….

    • its not where you copy or take the thoughts that nourish you.just read and gain sparks!!! it must touch your heart and make your read.. worthy and thats it!! life is all about it. never compare. everything comes out from 26 alphabets!!!

  8. chetan has just modified the sppech by the great hollywood actor alan alda his own way but still you can make out the way he copied alan alda all his speech actaully instead of giving ne credits to chetan we should appreciate alan alda …..i am not some one you hates chetan bhagat but rather i am one of his biggest fans so i expect a lot from him….

    • Well said Mr Balani, unfairness is indeed painful and the hardest aspect of life to handle..i am absolutely with u Sunil…Glad you understand this fact.

  9. great speech …..loved the week-end part , we have only a number of week-ends lefts so lets enjoy….Enjoyed the post very much.

  10. The fact is everyone is aware of the things said in the speech, but after reading through it. Its more like a nice revision. And not to forget revisions do fetch you marks 😀
    And after reading this i am sure it will fetch us something we have been wanting to implement from a long time .

  11. He is an awesome writer and a truly motivating one. This speech was really inspiring and a must for all the new college goers. It tell you the USP of a better and a happier life as a human.

  12. Pingback: Chetan Bhagat’s speech at Symbiosis « As I like it « Dak's Blog

  13. I am not a fan of CB.. be it fictional work of some of his political views. But this speech is fantastic.
    I may differ from him ideologically but this speech is about life, which is universal…
    By the way none of the ideas are original.. but he has articulated it very well with cute metaphor of a little spark. Hats off to CB

  14. There should be someone always to uplift the spark that is inside us. Hats off and Kudos..It really have lifted my spirits. May God bless him.

  15. Nice OK kinda speech, we’ve heard a lot of speeches like these… in our schools, colleges and also sometime in offices by our bosses. But its not that easy to keep that ” SPARK” alive, coz u really need to compromise a lot, esply when Ur own happiness is less important compared to that of ur family and evn ur girlfrnd.
    The best thing u can do is to try to create a “balance”.

  16. Wow, really a good speech. Though its difficult to execute these things in practical life and in most situations but one can surely try…………..Infact, one should try so that he/she could be happy.

    Sahi hai Mr. Chetan Bhagat………..keep guiding in the same way…..

  17. Hardly an enlightening speech, way too preachy, devoid of humour or witticism, insipid language and hardly anything you haven’t heard before. People think he can write because he tells them he can.

  18. Well that was truly Amazing!!! thats not jus Gyan ot typical boring Speech… It is not wat we shud do … But its bout facts u ll come Acrosss;;;;
    Great CB and thank the one for posting it..


  19. Hey, it ws excellent and mindblowing speech delivered by CB, ur words could really trigger sparks in every INDIAN, thanks……

  20. Good I agree with most of it but do not agree with a statement dealing with Isolation that ” love yourself First and then Others” There would never be an end to loving yourself and you may become a selfish . For most , the love for ones life is biggest love and there are people who compromise /sacrifice that for a cause.


  22. it was a pleasure reading this speech……
    hope i get an opportunity to listen to chetan…..
    and yaa…..i am sure i will not let my spark fade off….cos am also from the land of billion sparks!!!!!!!!!!!

  23. A very inspiring speech. reading this has really boosted my morale and given me direction in life. A spark is what distinguishes a winner and a runner up. Accepting one’s shortcomings is not the same as accepting defeat. It is coming to terms with what you don’t have and being grateful for all what you have.

  24. Pingback: What is it about LIFE that we take so Seriously? « Parent It Forward

  25. This is awesome writing.. I think this person got the key point that we are temporarily living in this world.. he realized that we are blindly running to grasp the world, but he was infect unable to drive the purpose of Living.

    he realized that one day we have to go .. but where we will go… and then what will happen to us.. if we prob the question.. then then we can get the answer of our main question.. why do we came here in this world… and what we have to do here??…

    i think thats the strategy with the non-believer, no matter how honest he is, he cann’t see beyond his own thinking.

    I welcome my non-muslim brothers and sisters to start studying islams and try to learn the message of Allah give in it (Honestly study islam you will find it straightway opposite to the current portrayed by western media).

    if we understand te message of Allah and Prophet (PBUM) we can see that Care and Sincerity is one part of message, a complete pattern of living life is available in the Seerat of Prophet (PBUH), that is what we need to keep as tool of guidance. we will learn not only the pattern of living but also the reason and purpose of living in this world.


  26. The speech is mind blowing and it is true that once the spark has gone the aproach to life itself is changed and it will be reflecting in your behaviour.

  27. Copy Cat Bhagat wrote every thing by copying it from others. The luck that he talks about at the end of speech is applied to him the most. He lives in foreign country and works in bank. To make extra bucks like every Indian`s dream he copies it.

    He is not aged enough to pull “experience of life” nor has worked in this country for so long that he can explain Indian work culture.

  28. thanks for motivating sir… few words of encouragement that can take us so are the writer of the 21st century…the writer who writes meaning of life…at the same time your sense of humor is unparalleled…and yes the spark is the driving force for is the reason behind motivation of spirit and energy…spark is to be kept alive and that brings light to our lives…thanks again sir

  29. Today on a world book day, i was listening to CB on Radio, where i came to know about this speach… truely outstanding and much needed at regular interval to keep your SPARK alive.

  30. Pingback: PrepDiary:Updating Truth /6 hrs - USMLE Forums

  31. Mr Bhagat you have explained in a very simple language what we all want to listen from you. This is what you are best at.

  32. Each word filed with sincerity which is such a trade mark of Chetan Bhagat. So inspiring to read, wonder how charged the atmosphere must have been for all those hearing it in person.

  33. I’ve learn several excellent stuff here. Certainly price bookmarking for revisiting. I surprise how a lot effort you place to create any such excellent informative site.

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