Book Review- Two States: Story of My Marriage
There are quite a few reasons you could justify reading Chetan Bhagat to your friends, colleagues or the English teacher: it’s a good pastime, easy on language - so you don’t need to carry a dictionary, low on price, interesting in parts, funny at times etc. You may add one more reason: his are stories of today, where you and I live.
Bhagat’s USP is slowly, but surely, turning out to be this: an exploration of modern India- of IITs & IIMs (himself an alumni, he is obsessed with these citadels of higher learning), Call Centres, ambitious kids wanting to make a quick buck, religious divisions, caste lines and an underneath throbbing with a new found wakefulness, a sort of characteristic of the new generation.
‘Two States: the story of my marriage’ is a formula book; it works wonders with the average Indian reader. Much like a formula film, its got emotions, sex, friendship, music, betrayal, exploitation, Indian families on the verge of break-up and then re-uniting, elaborate weddings, tearful mothers, nosy relatives, spirituality, office politics, just-for-laugh lines and a predictable ending.
As the back cover of this paper back (there is a reason that Bhagat sells fast) describes in a cute summary:
‘Boy loves Girl. Girl loves Boy.
Girl`s family has to love boy. Boy`s family has to love girl.
Girl`s Family has to love Boy`s Family. Boy`s family has to love girl`s family.
Girl and Boy still love each other. They get married.’
…the plot is a basic one- girl meets boy, they fall in love etc. But by the end of the above description, this couple- Ananya & Krish- almost fell out of love trying to get their respective families to like each other, but for an expected twist which converts the clash of civilizations into a marriage of cultures.
So you have a life loving Punjabi boy from Delhi fall in love with a South Indian girl, who is not only fair but a Tamil Brahmin from Chennai. Chhole Bhaturey and Rawa Dosa, anyone? You may say no problem, but then this story is not their love story- that is complete within 40 pages of dating, living-in, sex, college life, commitment phobia et al, it is the story of their families and whether they fall in love with each other or not. The journey takes you to Punjabi & posh neighbourhoods in Delhi (including my own, yes tears of joy on spotting my address in a bestseller apart from the Voter ID. Can’t get more realistic for me) where marble kothis have more marble ‘than Taj Mahal’ and girls are ‘whiter than milk’. Krish finds himself on temptation island, but love gets the better of him. There is one problem though- his mother thinks ‘madrasis’ (every South Indian is called that, up here) are just out to ‘trap her boy’.
Now before your blood boils over this regional castigation, go relish a Butter Chicken (‘Food calms down Punjabis like nothing else’). The dhoti-clad, Carnatic music loving Tamilians haven’t been spared the loving jabs either and Bhagat apologetically puts out a disclaimer in the beginning, ‘I have taken the liberty to have some fun with you because I see you as my own.’
To that end, he has even dedicated the book to his in-laws; something he admits is a first in publishing.
What with the high-brow culture of South, its love for knowledge, its hatred for showing it off, its earthy ways of eating food etc- Krish struggles to be accepted by his would be in-laws. Ditto for Ananya- her would be mother-in-law can’t imagine she doesn’t know how to make masala bhindi.
The humor is situational as well as slapdash and does manage to make the reader play a smile all along. The pace of the story, which picks up from Bhagat’s earlier bestseller now being made into a film called ‘Three Idiots’ by Aamir Khan, ‘Five Point Someone…’, makes ‘Two States…’ a no-put-downer. Surprisingly, it touches an emotional chord near the end as an alienated father and son overcome their reservations.
In fact, all facets of a relationship have been shortly dealt with: father-son, mother-daughter-, father-in-law-son-in-law, boss-protégé- you get the picture. The characters are dramatic (them Punjabis) though not well etched. But then the book costs Rs 95 and as the MTV Bai succinctly puts it, “Itne paise mein itna vich mile ga.”
The point of the story is to show how the stark differences in India get painfully highlighted on a joyous (mostly) occasion like marriage. It also points out how love can conquer all the trivialities, as also how intelligent IIM guys are but how their well-paying jobs terribly suck.
In that, Bhagat is talking to the countless lovelorn Indians who have been left heartbroken because of their family’s ‘izzat’. He even says it is inspired by his own experiences and, well, he is happily married to a Tamil Brahmin Indian who is actually fair (!).
It’s a pop effort to address a contemporary issue and Bhagat pulls it off successfully. The lesson is delivered in the epilogue along with his twins as Krish says, “They (new born twins) will be from a state called India.’
Sniff & smile.