Book Review: 2 States by Chetan Bhagat

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.

2 States by Chetan Bhagat - the story of a jerk

2 States by Chetan Bhagat - the story of a jerk

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.

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  1. Alisha says:

    i think bhagwad u did a wonderful job telling the truth. though not a chetan fan i read the book coz my frends askd me to nd cudn’t go more thn the first half coz it was too. . offensive nd boring. its like a story(wn’t call it a love story coz its insulting to all the romance authors out there) where everyone is just out to insult everyone else. the mothers made me wana scratch their eyes out, felt like hitting the crap out of the protagonist like a gazillion times. honestly i lOVE ur review. totally second everything

  2. Shalini says:

    Bhagwad, I liked your review, it helped me look at the book and its characters in a new light. The main character does come off as a jerk but I have to say that I did find it a tad bit funny :) I just picked this book up yesterday to read and being from punjab can relate to a lot that he is going through with his mother. I have a very close friend who married a Tamilian and believe me I have almost seen this whole story unfold before my eyes which makes this even more interesting. It does potray a very real part of our society. It is sad that even though we all come from educated families, sometimes we are over powered by the stereotypes in the society.

  3. Jenni says:

    According to me, Chetan Bhagat’s male and female protagonists were both rash and immature. The whole series of events that led them to get into a relationship and certain incidents during their courting proves this.
    The fact that this kind of relationship, which started off when two study-partners ended up in a physical relationship(that too within 2 weeks as mentioned in the book), ended up in marriage is itself surprising. Its nothing but a bad message to the youth of India.

    Its hard to say whether the way they tackled their parents was right or wrong, since in India (esp. since this book is set in a society that existed about 15-20 years ago) sons and daughters need to keep their moths shut in front of their parents as much as possible.

    Anyway, in my opinion, no matter how engrossing Chetan Bhagat’s books are, he always messes up at some point. In two states, this happens when Ananya convinces the future husband of one of Krish’s sisters to disobey his parents and call off the dowry. The whole situation as to how Ananya calls all the siblings together and convinces them and how even the grown-ups listen to her seems ridiculous.

    Personally, I think Chetan Bhagat’s success as a writer was just meant to be temporary, especially after revolution 2020. Moreover, if indeed his stories are based on his true life, then I think he is an immature person himself too.

    • bhagwad says:

      Yeah – you can’t change a person’s entrenched mindset with words, no matter how impassioned or persuasive. Especially if you’re an outsider with no stake in the affair.

    • “…male and female protagonists were both rash and immature.”
      As are a lot of young Indian men and women in real life. The average middle class twenty something in India grows up in a prudish and protective bubble that makes them emotionally very naive, impulsive and immature – well into their adulthood. I have peers my age with an irrational fear of authority (including their teachers), a very contrite sense of what it means to be ‘liberal’, very easily impressed with emotional pleas AND an 11-year-olds’ maturity towards love, sex and relationships. They make a European high school kids look like Frederic Nietzsche.
      The book might seem very juvenile if you are used to people who function on a much higher cognitive plane; but having dated Indian women AND having a varied insight in how a lot of Indians think, I can see the shallowness outlined in the book totally panning out in real-life India. Live in this country long enough and you’ll get used to it.

  4. ADITYA says:

    i like and lov ur reveiw…. but i dont think chetan bhagat is that much immature as tagged by u guys…

  5. B says:

    I actually liked this book, though. It felt very real.

  6. Amit says:

    Chetans bhagaths books are so simple to read. this book remind my love story. each session in the story went soo different and romantic.

  7. Kapil Verma says:

    may be u dont know that how should be a conservative family. The plot of His family and their Punjabi behavior was awesome. dude, I think u are not well versed with Delhi typical Punjabis, but I like them.

    The plot of how can he win the hearts of her family is also good. It is like a bollywood movie, but what do u think bollywood cant be real. Life is different for different people. And Life plays this to him.

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