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Breaking barriers with Love
By Sushant Sharma



Chetan Bhagat once again uses his magic wand and touches the hearts of the youth with his "incorrect" language and believable plots that have a dash of drama in his latest novel '2 states'.

So it's Chetan Bhagat all over again. But this time he isn't spending a night at the call centre or showing off his heroics at IIT (things he did were certainly risky) though. Rather he has used his own life as the plot. To be precise, it's the story of his marriage.

Story of a marriage..!!?? Couldn't he have found a better plot…? Back to predictable plot, on the lines of the 80's blockbuster Ek Duje Ke Liye, Chetan Bhagat has seemingly run out of ideas. The only reason the book slips out of the genre of his earlier writings is its predictable plot. However, he compensates predictability through his racy prose that keeps the reader glued.

What's so special about marriages apart from tonnes of flowers, kilos of makeup, carats of gold, glitzy saris, lehangas (not to forget the girls who wear them), high-calorie food and unlimited gossip. That's the basic scenario of a basic (north Indian) marriage. It's an exciting affair I agree (especially the lehanga part) but certainly it can't be that exciting for anyone to write 270 pages and sell it for mere hundred bucks.

…But…

If the boy is a hardcore Punjabi (Krish) and the girl a beautiful Tamilian (Ananya) and somehow they fall in love and want to get married (obviously against their parents wishes)…. sparks are sure to fly and the unexpected can be expected.

According to Bhagat -
Love marriages around the world are simple. Boy loves girl, girl loves boy, they get married (irrespective of the fact that they might divorce the very next day)

But in India it's not that simple.
Boy loves girl, girl loves boy.
Boy's family has to love the girl and the girl's family has to love the boy.
Boy's family has to love the girl's family and the girls family has to love the boy's family.

Krish and Ananya are classmates (and room-mates) at IIM Ahmedabad. They readily fulfill the first criteria for a love marriage but fulfilling other two criteria is a Herculean task (nature never intended loud Punjabis and mellow Tamilians to be relatives).       But the crux of the whole story isn't the plot; rather it is Chetan Bhagat's style of writing. He literally gives us the sight, sound and taste of the story just through the pages.

So with a firm resolution to see their parents smile on their wedding day (had they eloped, it wouldn't have been 270 pages), both set out to bring families of two entirely separate communities together and join them with nothing but love. For it is easy to fight and rebel, but much harder to convince.

And what ensues is a gripping Bollywood style story- the schemes and planning of the boy and girl to convince each other's parents and how their respective parents try to keep their respective children within the bounds of their respective traditions.

But as it goes in Bollywood- hogi pyaar ki jeet (love will always triumph) and so does it happen at the end.

But the crux of the whole story isn't the plot; rather it is Chetan Bhagat's style of writing. He literally gives us the sight, sound and taste of the story just through the pages. Like the other three books, Bhagat writes in a style that instantly connects with the slang of teenagers. But with all the fame, he also has his share of criticism. Many veteran writers and authors believe that Bhagat's writing skills isn't a credit to his popularity. According to them his books are a runaway success with youngsters and his 'incorrect' writing is influencing the younger minds to learn the same 'incorrect' English like him.

We do not disagree with these veterans and even if they are right they cannot fail to notice that the author has indeed brought about a revolution. Writing crisp and short real life stories with the twists and turns at the right places to keep the readers glued to the book isn't cakewalk. "He writes what he says" kind of style is realistic enough that sometimes force the reader to associate themselves to the different characters in the story.       Modernity in living hasn't yet erased the engrained ideologies. Caste system was abolished years back but we still follow it blatantly.

A strong stratagem and its good portrayal can make a book a bestseller. Chetan Bhagat achieved both the milestones for "3 mistakes of my life". But 2 States could be an even bigger bestseller than its predecessor. The contrive is good (a bit filmi and hard to believe sometimes) but it's actually the description of things that scores high and covers up the small faults and hard-to-believe parts of the story. Even though it is essentially a real life story, yet Chetan Bhagat had already declared that it has been dramatized a bit. So maybe we can pardon him for those hard-to-believe parts. Apart from being a guaranteed entertainment, the book (like its predecessors) serves a higher purpose.

After reading those 270 pages on day 1 itself, what gave me food for thought was that even after 60 years of independence we still remain divided. Why are north Indians considered cousins of ET in down south? Why are south Indian traditions and language a laughing matter to north Indians? Are we not Indians and part of the same country?

The cultural divide in India is more than what meets the eye. Industries, infrastructure, transportation, and modernization… in the last six decades our country has grown faster than anyone could imagine. The times may have changed, but attitudes have remained rooted!

With all this growth we haven't been able to outgrow our old mindset. We seem to be slaves to the traditions that have long lost out on logic. Modernity in living hasn't yet erased the engrained ideologies. Caste system was abolished years back but we still follow it blatantly. Even racial discrimination creeps in when anxious parents look for a 'perfect match' for their young ones. In the best of moments, we are outwardly modern but inwardly, we are still living in the past.

Bhagat quotes an incident where his mother insists him to marry a girl just because her father owns six petrol pumps and they are rich. It shows how a typical middle class parent wants her child to achieve what she could only dream to achieve. And she sees her hopes fulfilled through her son's matrimonial alliance whether or not the boy or the girl are comfortable in each others' company.

We 'self proclaimed modern' are still backwards in thoughts. And it is time we break free from the manacles of caste and traditional customs.

2 States
by Chetan Bhagat,
Rupa & Co., 2009
Paperback price: Rs. 95.00
Pages: 269

Sushant Sharma  |  sushant91@gmail.com

Sushant Sharma is a college fresher and an avid reader.

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The bad news is that corruption has not only sustained but has grown in size and stature in the country. With scams being a regular feature, seventy per cent respondents in a survey have rightfully opined that corruption has continued to increase in India. One in every two interviewed admit having paid a bribe for availing public services during last one year. Transparency International's latest survey reveals that the political parties top the chart for the most corrupt public institutions, followed by police force and legislatures. No wonder, India continues to make new records on the global corruption arena!

The shocking revelation is that the health and education sectors haven't remained untouched by this phenomenon. With 5th and 6th positions respectively for these sectors on the public perception chart on corruption, corruption has crept insidiously into these sectors of hope for the masses. With bureaucracy being fourth in the list of corrupt institutions in the country, corruption seems to have been non-formally institutionalized with little hope if public services would ever be effective in the country. With economic growth having literally institutionalized corruption, are we now expecting corrupt to be socially responsible - a different CSR.

Poor. Who?

Not giving 'aid' to India is one thing but calling it 'rich' is quite another. If one in three of the world's malnourished children live in India, what does average daily income of $3 indicate? It perhaps means that there is a relative decline in poverty - people are 'less poor' than what they used to be in the past. But having crossed the World Bank arbitrary threshold of $2 a day does not absolve the 'developed' countries of their obligation to part with 0.7 per cent of their Gross National Income in development aid. Should this three-decade old figure not be revised?  

An interesting debate in UK's House of Commons delved on future of development assistance by the British Government. While prioritizing limited resources has been a concern, there has been no denying the fact that development aid must be guided towards tangible gains over a short period of time to start with. There are difficult choices for elected governments to make - should they invest in long-term primary education or in short-term university scholarships? Which of these will bring gains and trigger long-term transformation in the society. As politicians continue to be divided on the matter, poverty persists!!   

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