Friday, November 6, 2009

Book Review - Two States (Chetan Bhagat)

Two States. The Tale of Chetan Bhagat's marriage. Supposedly 'inspired' by his story but seems like more truth than fiction. I had given up on him after One Night @ a Callcentre. The first book - 5 Point Someone was actually a good read. Quick paced, with all the drama of a masala film, set in Delhi so references to places I'm familiar with. But the subsequent books fell so flat on their face that I concluded it was just his marketing strategy of pricing at Rs.95 that made him sell.

His latest book makes me eat my words. Its not a literary wonder by any yardstick. Yet, its an interesting tale told in a style which makes the reader part of the story. The book is about how a Punjabi boy from Delhi falls in love with a Tam Bhram (Tamil Bhrahmin) in IIMA. Unlike films, the story doesnt end there but goes on to narrate how they win over both the sets of families and finally managed to get married. Underlying this story is the pulse of the various countries that exist within the boundaries of India. The contrast drawn between the people from Delhi and those from Chennai offers a hillarious read. Not becasue it is far from the truth but because it is far too close to the truth. As much as I love being from Delhi, I must admit we tend to be a tad bit (!!) loud and show - offy. The bigger the car, the better to show off amongst relatives, office colleagues and even random neighbors. Unless there are some diamonds dangling from the bride's neck, the wedding seems to lack a little lustre :)! And our weddings do tend to look like the "All Continents Buffet" I ate in Canada....with atleast 6-7 cuisines being served and counters like live pasta, fish grill etc. taken for granted. Random relatives do expect to be given Saris and gifts at every wedding (why should they be rewarded I have always failed to understand). And yes, unless there is a DJ and a sangeet, we dont officially call it a wedding.

The portrayal of Chennai is brilliant as well. Of auto drivers who will always pretend not to know anything but Tamil, of women who dress in bright gold saris with so much gold on them that it could solve the economic crisis a few times over. Of roads that are spelt as tongue twisters. And weddings that happen at obscene hours in the morning with food served on banana leaves.

Most of it is exaggerated. But exaggerated so well that the reader cant help but chuckle along. The story is believable, funny and fast. Which is what works for the book.

I believe it must have taken a lot of guts for Chetan to write the book. There are things you dont want to share even after marriage. Making out on the IIM Campus is best hidden under wraps. Or things that you cant share like what he thought of his mother in law when he first saw her snap. These are potential timebombs! As 'inspired' as this book is, I give it to Chetan for having the guts to go out and write this. A thoroughly enjoyable read.

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