2 States is Chetan Bhagat’s fourth book after 3 immensely popular novels; Five Point Someone, One Night at the Call Center & The 3 Mistakes of My Life. His fan following and connect with the readers led to movie adaptations of all three books (two have already released, including Aamir Khan’s 3 Idiots). Bhagat is an IIT, IIM alumnus who quit an investment banking job to write. Most of his stories are derivations of his own experiences, and his books thrive on believable characters in real situations.
2 States (which he’s admitted to having based on his own pre-matrimony struggle) is about how love marriages work in India. Krish and Ananya fall in love while students at IIM-Ahmedabad. They decide to get married, but before that, they must make their respective families fall in love with each other too. This becomes a seemingly impossible task as they are from different religious backgrounds and cultures: Krish is Punjabi and Ananya is Tamilian. The book is about how Krish and Ananya have a hard time convincing their parents to agree to an inter-caste marriage; an act that is still considered sacrilege in our country. India has more than two thousand ethnic groups, and every major religion is represented, but our tolerance remains stifled by orthodox mindsets.
The story takes place in Delhi and Chennai, home towns of the two protagonists. There are humorous descriptions of both cities and the people. The motifs of Bhagat’s books are similar to that of a commercial Hindi movie; one in which you cry, then laugh, and go home happy. His writing is simple and he uses colloquial language making it easy to read, and thereby, reaching out to a wider base of readers.
In 2 States, the author derives humor from the idiosyncrasies of Punjabis and Tamilians. He describes the loud, brash weddings that are so typical of Punjabi families. He also takes digs at the conventions in Tamil culture. He pokes fun at both sides, but the humor is never offensive. At one point, while describing a Punjabi lady’s penchant for showing off, Krish remarks what marble is to a Punjabi, a foreign degree is to a Tamil.
The book has plenty of ‘filmi’ incidents. Krish’s rocky relationship with his father (a retired Army officer) changes in an absurd way. The father is initially portrayed as a stickler for rules who loathes his son’s disregard for authority, but later develops a sudden fatherly love. There is an unprovoked change from being a stereotypical chauvinist to an angel. The dialogue is also reminiscent of a Hindi movie (in one part, Ananya says “My father never smiled through his wedding” and Krish replies “How could he? He was marrying your mother”).
There is nothing intelligent about 2 States, but then it doesn’t pretend to be either. This is just a warmly told, believable story of an Indian couple’s struggle to fight customs and change obsolete mindsets. It doesn’t demand too much time or intelligence and succeeds in entertaining. Read it if you must. If not, wait for the movie.
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