In the recent past I have rarely read a book cover-to-cover at two or three sittings probably because of the size of the book or the nature of the read. This one I did. I started reading it yesterday afternoon and have just completed the book.
To start with '2 states - The story of my marriage' is a breezy read. The language is simple, the context clear and the situations understandable. The book appeals to you from the first page as Chetan Bhagat gives you a teaser and you wonder if the story will end on a happy or a sad note? If you skip to the last page you know that it will end on a happy note but then you want to know how. So it grabs your attention. At its core the story is about the love between a Punjabi North Indian boy and a Tamilian South Indian girl. But set it in the Indian context and you understand the complexities of that relationship. Marriage (at least in India) is not about the boy marrying the girl but more about the two families liking each other and accepting each other. The book is a journey of how the two counterparts convince their and the other family to accept them.
The book will appeal to you more if you fit into any one of the intended categories: (1) if you've had a cross culture, cross caste love - marraige or not (2) if you are a Tamilian or Madrasi / South Indian (3) if you are a Punjabi or North Indian and (4) if you've experienced any of them / lived in Delhi or Chennai. And I think therein lies the issue with the book. The segment of people that it will appeal to or the segment of people who will understand and identify with the book is relatively small.
The book panders to the agreed perceptions of the two classes - Madrasis are dark skinned, boring (read non-drinking, veg, intellectual focused) people while Punjabis are crass, loud mouthed, money focused people. And therein lies the second issue of the book. For a general reader this book might send wrong knowledge about the people and colour them with these characteristics. The book, of course, is superficial in its attempt at dealing with the North-South divide and does not go beyond dealing with certain set characteristics. It does not deal with why South Indians value education over money or why North Indians think the other way around. It attempts at doing this in a half-hearted way at some points of the book but you know that Bhagat does not want to write that kind of a book. He set out to write a cute, breezy love story and he accomplishes it.
The biggest problem with this book is that you can feel and see that Bhagat has written the book clearly with a Bollywood movie deal in mind. I think post his two books getting picked up by the Hindi movie making industry, his writing has changed. '2 States' is clearly written with a movie in mind. He peppers the book with the requisite Hindi movie characters and scenes - the breezy first half love story with no worries in the world, the cheesy proposal scene, the domestic abuse and a heartless father, the comedy of the North Indian landing in Chennai, the overbearing boss and his turnaround, DDLJ type boy endearing himself to various members of the girl's family, the presence of a guru to show the path, the depression for a sad song, a Punjabi wedding for the dance sequence, the sudden turn of heart of the father for the required lump-in-the-throat scenes and some comedy for the last bit.
Its all there and Bhagat will be seriously disappointed if this does not become a movie! The intent is there but the writing is for a Hindi Movie!
And for that I give it a 2.5/5. Read it if you have time and don't want too serious reading material!
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