This is the first book I’ve read by an Indian author. I wanted one which was set in India, but didn’t have India or “Indianness” as the theme of the book as such. I tried reading Midnight Chidren by Salman Rushdie and abandoned it because I found it too boring. Everyone assured me that “2 States” wasn’t about India as such, but about two people. They were right…and a bit wrong as well. The story is about how two people from different states fall in love and can’t get married because the parents will object to it.
I was shocked by how big a jerk the main protagonist was. It’s written in the first person, but I can’t feel any sympathy whatsoever for the lead character. He’s thoughtless, puts up with all kinds of rudeness from his overbearing and nauseatingly bigoted mother and doesn’t utter a peep when she openly insults the girl he loves. In one situation his mother complains about how the she’s too independent, and thinking themselves alone he assures her that she’ll be brought under control once married. The girl overhears this and predictably leaves him in a fit of rage. He goes to pieces and we’re supposed to feel sorry for him.
Sorry dude, but if you act like an asshole you deserve to be treated like one.
After they both have sex for the first time, the girl begins to ask him about their future. Granted it’s a bit naive for her to simply assume that there’s going to be a future and I can’t blame the guy for not really thinking about it. But even after he becomes aware of how important the question is for her, he pretends not to understand what she’s talking about and keeps putting her off. Total jerk material.
Usually in books written in the first person, the author makes the reader sympathetic to his cause. Reasons are given for even shameful conduct and while the reader may not approve of his or her actions, they can at least understand the motivations. But Chetan Bhagat gives nothing – no explanations for why he acts like a prick. He completely alienated me and made me feel he deserved his misfortune.
His final plot resolution came out of nowhere. A complete deus ex machina. In real life he would be reaping the consequences of his actions to this date. Only in the middle of the book do I begin to like him when he’s trying to win over the girl’s parents. But then he falls back into prickiness again.
The girl is only slightly better. She’s unable to see how insulting her own parents are and refuses to say a word against them. She doesn’t want to marry anyone else, but still allows her parents to fix up meetings with other men. It’s not only unjust to the guy she’s in love with, it’s also unfair to the men who come to see her.
The book is full of stereotypes. No attempt is made at character development and our author happily judges people based on their hair do, their accent and the food they eat. Granted lots of people judge in this way, but I read an author for his superior insight into the world not for his superficial judgement of appearances.
My wife tells me that all people are like this. That almost everyone in India is entirely beholden to their parents. I can’t and won’t believe this. It’s not possible for everyone to be such a big asshole as the main protagonist. Perhaps he exaggerated and actually did try and restrain his mother when she behaved in such a shocking manner towards the girl and his parents. I certainly hope so. If my wife is right and most people in India are like this I’m gonna get real depressed.