Two books by Chetan Bhagat

Saturday, 24 April 2010

Need a page turner while you’re travelling around India? Then try one of Chetan Bhagat’s books. His best selling novels are a fine introduction to contemporary India and the life of young middle class Indians. People leading the charge into software, computers and call centres, breaking free of the caste sensibilities of their parents, but still tied up with arranged marriages, dowries and regional antipathies.

2 States2 States tells the story of two young MBA students, the guy a young Punjabi from Delhi in the north of India, the girl a Tamil from Chennai (aka Madras) in the south. Autobiographical? Well that’s a one line description of Chetan and his wife Anusha and how they met. As the book underlines you can’t simply fall in love with each other, you’ve got to fall in love with your partner’s parents, your partner’s parents have to fall in love with you and then the parents have to fall in love with each other. It’s a big ask!



5 Point Someone5 Point Someone follows the misadventures of three young students at IIT – the Indian Institute of Technology. Yes, Chetan is an IIT graduate. It was the starting point for Three Idiots, by assorted measures the biggest Bollywood movie ever. It’s a good description of the cultural oddities of Indian life even in today’s computerised world. For example Alok, one of the threesome, is desperate to graduate from IIT, so he can get a good job and afford a car. Not for himself, the car’s a necessary addition to his sister’s dowry, so she can attract a ‘suitable boy.’

Suitable cars also pop up in 2 States when a marriage nearly doesn’t happen because the boy’s parents decide the girl’s parents have provided the wrong model Hyundai! Both books also feature lots of food (Indian mothers, sons and kaju burfi clearly enjoy the same relationship as Italian mamas, sons and pasta or Jewish mothers, sons and chicken soup).

Two connections – when I was in India in February helping launch the Indian edition of the Lonely Planet Magazine I met Chetan Bhagat in Mumbai and I spoke to students at IIT in Delhi.