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Suggested reading time: 3 days
Category: Fiction

“Religion is the opium of the people” said Karl Marx. “Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people”.  This surely stands true for the Indian people.  But apart from religion, there is another obsession in India which cannot be said to be completely independent of their beloved ‘opium’. It’s the obsession with marriage.  If you are a girl born in India, there is a very high possibility that that even before you were born your parents had decided who you would marry. That old “maine apne dost ko zubaan di thi ki main dosti ko rishte mein badlunga” situation has been immortalized in various Bollywood  dramas, the most popular one being DILWALE DULHANIA LE JAENGE(even the title signifies marriage). The super succesfull Jubilees of Rajshri  Productions were no more than dramatized marriage videos.  Even after Dr Chaddha  (Vicky donor) gave his all in explaining how marriage was a ‘wastage of Sperm’,   we find news of mass marriages with 70 odd couples marrying simultaneously. Feminists shout from rooftops of how marriage serves as a medium of oppression of women yet almost every girl dreams of getting her ‘sapnon ka rajkumar’.  Questions about Salman Khan’s marriage pop up in every interview he gives. You may hate marriage or you may love it but you can’t ignore it. It’s all around you. In fact the book I am here to review goes by the name “2 States – The Story Of My Marriage”.  The IIT-IIM graduate Chetan Bhagat (biggest selling English language novelist in Indian history: NEW YORK TIMES),  treats us with a semi autobiographical account of how Krish marries Ananya.  A Punjabi-Tamilian love story, set in times when Hrithik Roshan sprang to fame and parents controlled the worlds of their 20 something children, shows how their marriage was an unthinkable phenomenon and it was finally made possible.

The initial pages of the book are set up in IIM-Ahmedabad. Krish and Ananya meet in the canteen for the first time and eventually over a few days of combined study, fall in love. Life is great for them until their families meet each other. It takes sometime before they realize that they may not be able to convince their families to support their marriage. The twist in the tale is, they want to marry with their parents’ consent rather than choosing the easy way of eloping. Inter-caste marriages are still a taboo in India and let alone an inter-state marriage of a Punjabi and a Tam Brahmin. The meeting of two families on the convocation day at the college sets the drama into motion. Rest of the story is about how youngistan fights oldistan to get the approval for marriage. The boy tries to get acceptance from the girl’s family and the girl tires to get acceptance from the boy’s family while both of them are trying to get acceptance from their respective families.

In this melting pot of cultures that is India, all components don’t mix with ease. And Punjabis and Tamilians definitely don’t.  The contrast between Punjabi north and Tamil south has been showcased beautifully with good sensible Humor that binds you into the text and never lets you leave. The text is easy to read and linear in precision which makes it a perfect book to be adapted into a Movie. The narrative is predictable yet fresh.  The characters are very much relatable and the description of marriages would leave you in splits. Bhagat utilizes the common stereotypes we are all familiar with. Be it the stress in the Punjabi household for marrying a girl with a big dowry, or the importance given to education and success in a south Indian household. However, he manages to use these without hurting the sensibilities of either group.  Chetan Bhagat is surely a writer of the masses. He is a writer one shouldn’t criticize without reading. 2 states is his finest work in my opinion.

A few interesting quotes and extracts from the book (you may or may not agree with them):

  • “Pretty girls behave best when you ignore them. Of course, they have to know you are ignoring them, for otherwise they may not even know you exist.”
  • “Jealousy is a rather enjoyable emotion to watch.”
  • “When a woman comes into your life, things organize themselves.”
  • “Rules, after all, are only made so you can work around them”
  • “The word “future” and females is a dangerous combination.”
  • “The world’s most sensible person and the biggest idiot both stay within you. The worst part is you can’t even tell who is who.”
  • “The pretty girl is always right.”
  • “Nothing soothes an upset Punjabi like dairy products.”
  • “Corporate types love to pretend their life is exciting. The whispers, fist-pumping and animated hand gestures are all designed to lift our job description from what it really is – that of an overpaid clerk”

If you are looking to read something light, funny and romantically dramatic yet realistic and sensible then 2 states is the book for you. Seriously recommended. You will like the book even if you are not a marriage enthusiast.

The book review is contributed by Abir Misra

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