Friday, January 24, 2014

Two States - the story of my marriage

This is a somewhat fictionalized autobiographical account of how the writer, Chetan Bhagat, met his better half during his IIM days.   The protagonist of the story, Krish Malhotra is a Punjabi guy, who falls for Ananya Swaminathan, a Chennail girl, his classmate at IIM-A.   The story recounts the difficulties he has to face to bring together two of India’s polar opposite communities together inside a marriage mandapam.  The writing is laced with humor, sarcasm, and witty references.

Synopsis:  The story as is usual for Chetan Bhagat, starts with Krish’s visit to a psychiatrist after suffering a nervous breakdown.   He narrates to her (psychiatrist), how he met Ananya for the first time, how they get going.  Krish comes from a Pubjabi middle class family in Delhi.  His father was working in army and has been a unsuccessful entrepreneur in his civilian life.  His mother has been a housewife all her life.  Their family life has never been good.  Studying hard and as a result having a brilliant academic credential was Krish’s way to escape from the daily quarrels at home and also to keep his mind occupied.  Ananya on the other hand comes from a upper middle class family from Chennai.  Her father is working in PSU Bank.  She has a younger brother who is an aspiring IIT geek.  Her mother is a house wife who loves carnatic music and is a amateur singer.
Thus the family of both Krish & Ananya are  as different as they come.   However, both of them are hell bent on making their relationship work.   During convocation ceremony, Krish & Ananya try to get a bonding session between their family.  As Krish is not on speaking terms with his father, his mother is the attendee from his side.  Ananya’s full family is there on the eve.  The bonding session turns out to be a fiasco with both families sticking to their stereotypes about the other community brief skirmishes ensue despite the firefighting done by Ananya & Krish.

Krish, who gets a job with Citibank, deliberately chooses Chennai for his training.  He uses this period of time to get close to Ananya’s family.  He tutors Ananya’s brother for IIT entrance.   He eventually wins Ananya’s father on his side by helping him with a power point presentation.  Last but not least, he gets a show for ananya’s mother, where she shares the stage with legends SPB & Hariharan.  Her singing is widely appreciated.  Thus he conquers the last frontier as far as Chennai is concerned.

Now comes the bigger hurdle.  To convince his Punjabi  community, which mainly consists of his mother’s relatives.  Krish’s training is over & he opts for Delhi.  Ananya to comes to Delhi as part of her corporate work for 1 week. Ananya wins over his younger cousins, but winning over Krish’s Mom still remains a distant dream.   Krish is not concerned with taking his father’s approval for the wedding, as he has always remained aloof.  Krish & Ananya take their family to Goa for another session of bonding which turns out a bigger disaster than their first one.  Ananya finally gives up on reconciliation efforts as she thinks it is difficult for her Punjabi in-laws to accept a South Indian Bride.   This leads to the nervous breakdown which finally culminates in the meeting with psychiatrist.  His love story seems to be doomed, when suddenly out of nowhere, an unexpected player turns up and helps to break the ice, and eventually sets in a motion a chain of events concluding with the marriage of Krish & Ananya (Tamil Wedding).
My views:  There is something in the writing of Chetan Bhagat, which touches the raw nerve of youth.    The soaring book sales and that Movie makers are queing up for bagging movie rights are sufficient proof of that.   The reader will be chuckling even while going through the scenes where Krish suffers a nervous breakdown.  It is because of the underlying sarcasm and dark humor, which I believe, is his greatest USP.

I chanced upon this book when it came out in 2009, but at that time, I had read all three of his writings, (Five Point Someone, One Night @ Callcenter & Three Mistakes of my life) and a cursory glance at the beginning led me to think that Chetan Bhagat is again using his time tested formulaic method to tell a story (present – past – present).  However, I believe, this is the first time Chetan Bhagat is trying to be preachy (though I agree with what he has to say).  He insists that Indian youths should marry outside their community in order to break the stronghold of caste & community & thereby espousing true national integration.  Overall, this is a book you should pick up on a long travel & and it will keep you hooked till the end.