In a line: Chetan's got a good business mind.
Just imagine this scenario.
* You have resigned your job as a high profile investment banker for the love of writing.
* You already have three best selling books to your credit plus the big honour of "the guy who made India read" (too much i know).
It gets interesting now.
*You have run out of ideas and epiphanies.
*You are desperate to monetize your huge fan base*
*You are planning to join politics in future
What do you do?You go ahead and write a perfect masala** book with no taut storyline and lots of xenophobic ridicules and name it "2 states-The story of my marriage" .
Very difficult to imagine? Just go ahead and buy the book for hundred bucks and make it your bedbug for 3 nights. You will understand crystal clear what I am talking about.
Yes!! 2 states-TSOMM is the latest fiction work by my once favorite Indian writer Che(a)tan Bhagat. The title says 2 states. But it is very clear that chetan was only in 1 state of mind while writing this book. Deride the southies (the terms northies and southies are not meant to be pejorative and simply to imply the divide The Vindhyas has caused)at every given opportunity and give the northies a good chance to laugh at the former - a simple concept.
Ok!! Before moving forward about the book permit me a historical interjectional opinion. Though I don't question the concept of a united India, I do question the way politics goes about in this country. India was supposed to be this holy-mother merger of powerful but disparate states which were separate countries before. It was supposed to be greater than the sum of its parts. But the last guy who tried doing such a thing was Dr.Frankenstein and he ended up creating a monster. And our country is no different - a monstrous creation.
Shedding the cloak of an Indian and looking through the prism of reality I find Indians to be the most racist people in the world. Throughout India, sectarianism and discrimination run amok. Northies hate Madrasis who in turn hate goltis and kannadigas who in turn hate mallus and they all in turn hate chinkies(chinese-the people from north east). Language and colour are not the only phylae of the Indian segregation taxonomy. There are more like religion, caste, creed, sex, subsects etc., And in a situation where our only unity lies in hating each other( so much for unity in diversity) we call the aussies racist? Our biggest contribution to civilization apart from zero seems to be the soon to be published book called "Hatred For Dummies - a complete guide on how to racially detest human beings and have fun doing it"
Enough truth finding and prophetic lectures!! Back to the battlefield. This is the scenario in which Chetan Bhagat comes in. Here is this picture-perfect too good to be true crusader who comes to India after several years of international action, with an aim to change(this word is highly over rated nowadays along with innovation) this country,his reputation an all time high buoyed by three best selling books and his marriage experience akin to a polar bear marrying a desert camel . So he understands both sides of the country and decides to write a book about it. Good Idea mate!! A great way to bridge the north-south divide. Oh wait!! That was at least what I was thinking he would do. But he disappointed me by taking a side in the novel. He wanted to show how a couple's love life succeeds after many struggles- I get it. But should the villians all be lungi wearing, hindu reading madrasis and their culture?
Its like Che (Chetan not che guevara) was throwing a big party, everyone reading 2S-TSOMM was attending it. It was a perfect opportunity for him to introduce each one to the other. He could have made everyone realize that there are many positives about the other. But instead he joined his gang of friends and family and made fun of the other gang of friends and never was amicable, even towards the end of the party.
Here are some points on which i disagree with him,
1) The mom of Krish (the character who narrates the story) is the perfect villi in any film writer's book - she hates madrasis as much as cockroaches. She loves money as much as a child loves ice cream. She insults the girl and her family at every opportunity and never ever in the book she regrets her actions. But somehow things end well and there is this usual mawkish scene involving son and mom where towards the end everyone is made to believe she is as good as mother Teresa.
2) A sardarji advises krish to leave the city as soon as possible, as Punjabis can't live in there for long. We are not talking about some Kandahar in Afghanistan, but good old Chennai. And the auto drivers are compared to terrorists, which i think is true not only in Chennai but in the rest of India as well. So what the duck dude? They ain't killing Punjabis in here like they did in Delhi. Che can argue that it was not his opinion, but it does show the south in bad and wrong light.
3) The food. I was at my boiling high when I learnt that Che dint care a dime to appreciate the excellent south Indian food. I understand his predicament, I cant live on rotis and subzis for more than a week, but i sure love them. Dude, dint Krish even love the delectable sambhar in Ananya's (the victim in this novel ) house?
4) I could have condoned the above three as "shit happens". But not when he steps up the rant and compares divine carnatic music to hmmm.., let me quote "...they sounded like long wails, as if someone was being slowly strangled..". Thats it!! Che had lost his honour as my favorite writer with those lines. This is serious stuff people. Great composers from Thyagaraja and Syama sashtri to BalaMurali Krishna and MS Subbbulakshmi dint wail nor did they strangulate anyone. It is a branch of science and art in to its own, requiring oodles of genius and discipline. We are not talking about some Bhalley!! Bhalley!! (sorry!! cant resist the racist Indian in me) here. But I think you get my point. Though I initially thought the ektara and thumbi (the thing with which you do bhalley!! bhalley!!) as primitive one-stringed instruments later I appreciated the simplicity and humbleness in their design and not to mention the laymen who use them. I would have liked Che to avoid the sacrilege or at least redeem the honor towards the end. Alas!! the epiphany never came to Krish.
And northies(Not all but atleast a sizable ratio. Friends who usually contradict me concur with this opinion) finish the novel with the thought "See!! Thats why we hate Madrasis" and gloat over their vision and ability to see the truth about people down under.
I did enjoy some digs about Madrasis like dark skinned, The Hindu reading and Girlfriend-less(is that the word?) men but not the rest. No!!A defensive salvo like the one in the acknowledgments section wont do. Let me quote the exact lines:
"..all South Indians I love them.....I have taken the liberty to have some fun with you..(blah blah blah) You only make digs at people you care for"
I was surprised that no one else was complaining. So I called up some of my friends from other states(karnataka, Andhra, Kerala etc..,As a matter of fact I am an antagonist in this novel a.k.a Tamilian) to verify that I had not become insane and that the sun still rises in the east. All shared my agony, except one guy from kerala. And later after I explained him " Ranjit!! Dont be mistaken. Chetan is a punjabi and not a mallu chetan(meaning brother in malayalam) " he immediately empathized with me***.
I read in some interview of chetan that he has a serious idea about joining politics. And I have to agree with him about his seriousness. He has already become one, by writing this biased(subtle or blatant), polarized(knowingly or unwittingly) fiction which he says will bridge the north-south divide. Wake Up Che!! All those days of sleeplessness in IIMA must be getting in to you and I am pretty sure you must have dozed off when you wrote some of those chapters(Please say YES !! PLEASE)
* - This line in no way reflects chetan's mindset and is an addition to spice things up in my blog :) mea culpa
** - masala not as in food but as in stupid run of the mill kollywood (esp vijay)and tollywood( to some extent ) movies
*** - The above conversation b/w me and Renjit chetan never happened and is again to add masala
PS: A special thanks to Che for helping break my writer's block and also for the first two Acts which got me going. I thought it would create some revolution but now i think Che seriously need some revaluation .