2 States is the story of Chetan Bhagat’s courtship & marriage – how he, a Punjabi, and his girlfriend, a Tamilian Brahmin convinced their parents to let them marry each other. He plays on all the stereotypes of the Punjabi & Tamilian communities that exist, exaggerating them to the nth power. Punjabis love food, love all material things, are lured by money, huge houses & glitzy cars, are loud & over-the-top in everything they do, and are extremely racist, hung up on fair skin & hate South Indians. Tamilians on the other hand are quiet, not very gregarious people, have an understated lifestyle, eat on banana leaves & hate North Indians! The book is mainly about these stereotypes – which he has used to bring in the humor element – and not so much about the love story between the protagonists Krish & Ananya. The romance between them hardly exists!
The book reads like a script for a Bollywood potboiler that’s just waiting to be made into a movie! And I’m not surprised given that I recently read an interview with Chetan Bhagat where he says he’s gradually moving towards script-writing since that’s where the demand (read $$$$) is. So Mr Bhagat, why waste time writing books and waste Rs 95 of our hard-earned money? You might as well write scripts directly, and that way we will save our money because no one will waste money watching your movie! Remember ‘Hello’? Did anyone watch it apart from you, your wife & your twin boys?
Anyway, moving on….the first part of 2 States where Krish tries to win over Ananya’s parents is long drawn out, and the latter part (where Ananya tries to convince Krish’s parents) gets over in a jiffy!
In spite of all cultural differences there are no fights between the couple, only minor arguments. Common sense says that when you’re trying to straddle wide cultural chasms – along with the added pressure of having to convince two sets of non-cooperative parents – fights are bound to happen between the couple. Or when the wedding preparations are being done where the boy and girl belong to two different cultures - there are fights between the families (and consequentially between the couple) on issues such as the style of wedding, the rituals to be followed etc. But Mr Bhagat is in a hurry to finish his book and has no time to dwell on these.
The book is also very sexist. Just to convince his mother – who is way too hung up on the “hum ladke wale hain (we are the boy’s side)” bit – Krish asks Ananya & her family to be almost servile towards his family – buy expensive gifts for every member of the boy’s side, ask your parents to always talk to them with folded hands, pander to every demand of theirs etc. Ananya’s family obliges without a word. He also tells his mother that once the wedding is over he’ll show Ananya her place in the family - that of a daughter-in-law who dare not argue with her mother-in-law - and make her toe the line!! As a female reader, I take offense to such sexist attitude.
Chetan Bhagat has shown Punjabis as extremely avaricious, petty and racist – definitely immensely exaggerated. Ananya is shown to be an independent career woman and quite sexually liberated but she still panders to the demands of the boy’s side without a word of protest.
Overall, the book is good for a light read. It has plenty of humor though at the expense of certain communities. But otherwise it’s quite pedestrian.