Chetan Bhagat magnanimously dedicates this book to his in-laws. He admits that book is inspired by his own experiences and yet he requests the book be treated as fiction. Its hard to, considering every second couple in this country undergoes similar experiences. Not to mention, every Boolywood movie harps on same theme.
The book is all about an IIMA couple’s struggle to marry over the cultural differences. Krish is north Indian Punjabi boy in love with Tamilian Brahmin girl Ananya. (Chetan Bhagat too is Punjabi and his wife is a South Indian.) The only catch is, Krish and Ananya don’t want to elope or be estranged to their families, therefore, they choose to convince their parents for the marriage.
Both Ananya and Krish take turns to win over each other’s families and then they try to make both the families like each other. After all in India, you don’t marry the guy (or girl for that matter), you have to marry the family. In fact, Krish does get 4 gold rings made to propose girl’s entire family! :-/ Sounds cheesy? Well, irrespective of my shortened plot summary, you must concede it is a mammoth project to accomplish anywhere, in real life.
Of course, it goes without saying that even though both Krish and Ananya are exceptions to their North Indian and South Indian clan; this book is perfect opportunity to dwell into age-old ‘North India versus South India divide’.
Krish maybe Punjabi boy, but he is blissfully unaware how in his community greedily and offensively ‘boy’s’ side can come on the ‘girl’s’ side during a Punjabi wedding. Similarly, Ananya, the Tamilian girl is completely unlike other Tamil girls: For one she is not as dark as southern girls ( a fact she will be reminded over and over again by Krish’s Punjabi clan) and unlike her staunch family, she both drinks and eats meat. (May be we should thank IIM for breaking the latter stereotype ;) )
Though the premise is most realistic, it draws your attention to cultural differences in diverse India. Some of them are as simple as boisterous, loud Punjabi music versus quiet, mellifluous Tamilian Carnatic music. However, the difference in sensibilities is predictable. I familiarized myself once again with all the clichés.
In fact, after reading the blurb and title Two States; I was aware that plot progression will be predictable. So what if the book questions the racism India practices against its own countryman? It questions why we are scared to marry outside our clan. Lovers themselves have the dilemma that if it is worth it to marry with making so many members of the families unhappy. Is it worth it?
But then since we have been asking these questions for a long time with little progress, I personally read the book with complete detachment in one-go. I had a fair idea what was to come, so there weren’t many heartstrings moved or surprises for that matter.
I don’t need to comment on Chetan Bhagat’s language, for we all know he has never claimed to be literary. Sometimes lines are cheesy and you may have heard them before. For example, My father never smiled through his wedding. How could he, he was marrying your mother? Or
However, long ago, I had read this post about 5 elements of Chetan Bhagat’s wrting: young, modern characters (it helps if they are from IIT or IIM); conversation with F word, Blooywood-ish plots complete with proposals on knee; a love story and a twist at end. All these elements are there in this book, only you know the twist for this book.
Every Indian who watches Bollywood knows the twist in this story. Yet you must read this book once, if only to be reminded of what lovers from different communities go through at the hands of their families. How love is at mercy of societal, familial norms. And how a man eternally finds himself torn between his girlfriend/wife and mother. No prizes to guess the last one. Oh yes, I forgot there is also a hurried, steamy account of a college affair; you could find bit of Five Point Someone reminisces there.
Review all said and done, I sometimes wonder why couples from different communities give into their feelings for each other when they know they won’t go against the grain of their families and that their families will never ever accept their partner. It is an unnecessary heartache and heartaches do leave scars, even if time heals them. I am glad at least Krish and Ananya, Chetan Bhagat book’s protagonists, tried even if results weren’t always desirable.