Monday, March 31, 2014

2 states by Chetan Bhagat – A review by blogger Sarah Malik

Cover pic of '2 States'

After regretting the money spent on Chetan Bhagat’s ‘3 mistakes of my life’, I had no plans of torturing myself with his newly published 'story of my marriage'. However when a friend got her copy to college, I couldn't resist the urge to flip a few pages in one of the intolerably somnambulic lectures.

But 25 pages past and I found myself totally gripped to this tale of Ananya Swaminathan, a Tamil Brahmin and Krish Malhotra, a Punjabi studying and making love in one of the most prestigious institutes of India – the IIM.

I won't go into the details of how the story progresses for it is nothing more than a usual bollywood flick where the lead characters are jeopardized and try to work out their way to bridge barriers between their respective families and community narrated in Chetan Bhagat’s style.

The protagonists too are crafted in a similar fashion as in other books of his. The girl, inspite of being a Tamil Brahmin is bold and outspoken. She doesn't mind sharing the hostel room with her boy friend or hugging him in front of her conservative dad.

The guy is forever confused and at times annoying. Narrated from the guy's perspective, best part of the book is the quirky humour which sets it apart from all other Bhagat books. I literally had a hearty laugh at so many instances.

My favourite character was Ananya's conservative dad and the way he warns Krish to stay away from his daughter. Krish’s mother is hilariously portrayed too and would remind you of neighbourhood Punjabi aunties.

To sum it up two states is a light but engrossing and moreover entertaining read and is a literary equivalent to any one of the usual bollywood movies.

For all those looking for a nail biting climax or an absorbing literary work, you have a wrong book in your hand. Keep it back and solemnly resolve never to pick up a Chetan Bhagat again!

My rating: 2.5 + 0.5 (for the witty style of narration) = 3/5

[The review has been done on special request by Sarah Malik, one of the more notable bloggers of India. To read more from her, kindly check out her blog ‘Embodying Emotions’ at ]


Sunday, March 30, 2014

9 untamed questions: Interview of fiery Pakistani author Natasha Ahmed

Natasha Ahmed is the kind of woman whose words are as unabashed as her personality. Trapped in a morass of social prejudices and restrictions, she has tried to breathe free by unleashing her pen and wielding a story where the protagonist is a woman with a rebellious streak (much like the author herself).

The 40-plus author from Pakistan shatters established norms, pens a story under a pseudonym to conceal her identity and publishes a controversial work at the risk of getting a Fatwa on her head.

Here is how she introduces her work:

My book, Butterfly Season, was launched on March 20, 2014, on Amazon and on my publisher's site, Indireads. The story is basically a romance, but it's about a Pakistani woman who falls for a guy and contemplates sleeping with him – something most Pakistanis/Muslims will identify with as 'No Sex Before Marriage' has been drummed into our heads since childhood. My protagonist, Rumi, has to make a choice between love and culture.  

A deeper probe into her mind helped me extract a few more words out of her:

Q1)  Dear Natasha, congratulations for your debut novel. A lot of authors are already a few novels old by the time they hit 30. Do you have regrets you didn’t pick the pen earlier?

Natasha: The last time I tried writing a book was when I was 16. A friend and I got together and tried to collaborate on a mystery that went nowhere. Around that same time, we got a new art teacher, a young dynamic woman who inspired me so much, I dropped the idea of writing in favor of art. I went to art school because of her and now I’m a graphic designer, have been for 20 years. I draw, I paint, I create websites, I design logos and campaigns, and I have loved it. So no, I don’t regret it.
Lately, however, my design work has become mostly corporate, which is very stale and repetitive and I’m ready to give that up. On the other hand, I fully intend to continue drawing; in fact, I hope to get more time to do so if good book sales mean I can give up corporate design. Maybe I’ll even write a graphic novel!

Q2) Your book slams social prejudices and even goes on to advocate adultery. So why a title like ‘Butterfly Season’ and why not something more rebellious, something more barbed, more direct?

Natasha: At the end of the day, my book is popular fiction – it’s a romance, not literary fiction. The social aspect of the book is secondary to the fact that it’s pure entertainment. All the classics we read in school—Austen, Shakespeare, Shaw, Hardy—they wrote for the masses, not for the select few. That’s how nations change. Voltaire’s Candide was one of the catalysts for the French Revolution. Harriet Beecher Stowe sparked the American Civil War with Uncle Tom’s Cabin, shining a light on the blight of slavery.
I want people to read my book for the entertainment and come away with ideas for social change. I would rather be a popular fiction writer read widely than bring out a book that may win awards but will be read by a tiny fraction of the world’s population. So my title reflects the lighter side of the book.
Just to be clear, I don’t advocate adultery. I advocate an individual’s right to make his or her own decisions (especially decisions that don’t harm anyone else) without censure. We’re not here to judge other people, because none of us have clean hands, no matter how pure we think we are.

Q3) Rumi is the protagonist in your book. Can you tell a bit more about her? How much of Rumi is Natasha and how much of Natasha is Rumi?

Natasha: Rumi’s words are all mine. Her ideas and her views on life are also mine. I gave her different circumstances in life—she’s an architect, her parents have both passed away, and it’s just her and one sister—and gave her different choices, some of which I never had. But I think Rumi is far braver than I was. She took the risks and the leap of faith in herself that I haven’t. After all, look how long it took me to write my first book!

Q4) Okay, now a question about writing technique that I always toss at an author- How many days did you take to write this novel? Were there mental hurdles (writer’s block, procrastination, etc) that you had to overcome?

Natasha: Writing the first draft was easy. It took me 3 weeks. Doing the rewrites after the beta reader and editor feedback took me 9 months. I write at night because I’m still working, still have commitments to clients that I can’t delegate just yet, so I had less time to put into the rewrites than I would have liked. Fortunately, my publisher was patient enough to wait for me.
I started off with a whole stack of worksheets on character sketches, plot sketches, dialogue, scenes, and a myriad other details that I had downloaded from Guardian Books (How to Write a Novel in 30 Days). I think I filled out about 3 of the worksheets. Then I got bored and just started writing. I’d write a brief outline of what each scene needed to achieve (in terms of moving the plot forward) and then I would just write out the chapters.
With my next book, however, I don’t want the characters to be clones of Butterfly Season, so it’s a lot harder. I’m paying more attention to how my characters speak, what their motivation would be to do something, and it is really tough.  There’s a temptation to bring pieces of Rumi or Ahad (from Butterfly Season) into this new set of characters, which is hard to resist.

Q5) Currently, the book is available in the e-format. But there are a lot of people who prefer the hard copy version of a book. How do you wish to convince them to read your work?

Natasha: I’m hoping my readers will do that! I ran a competition on March 8 and gave away 10 copies of the book. With the exception of one reader who wasn’t very impressed (she gave me 2 stars on Goodreads, but when I checked her profile, she’d given Reluctant Fundamentalist one star, so I’m basking in the glory of beating out Mohsin Hamid!), everyone else has not only given me glowing reviews, they’ve recommended it onwards. And that’s just gold. There’s no better way to market than word-of-mouth. Almost all of them follow me on Twitter, Facebook and Goodreads, and all of them continue to push out any promotional material I release. I trust them to convince their friends and acquaintances that the book is good enough to overlook technological preferences.
But the book will be available as print-on-demand via Pothi in a few months. And if it does well, if any of Indireads’ books do well, they’ll start printing their books.

Q6) Can we have a few words about your publisher IndiReads? Take us through the experience

Natasha: Indireads is small press. They’re new, barely a year old. Right now, the atmosphere is like a family. They have two senior editors, both with very different approaches and tastes, which works very well in balancing out our stories. One is very blunt, one is very kind. No prizes for guessing who everyone’s favorite is! But they’re very supportive. They’ve taken on a number of first-time writers and provided all the support a new author needs to actually write a good book.
The only thing they really need is a good marketing network. I’ve heard a few nightmares about publishers who won’t market for you unless you’re a big ticket item, but I haven’t seen that with Indireads. They’re still working out many of the kinks in their system, but they are extremely proactive and aren’t afraid to try out new things.
One of the best things I like about them is that, while they’re publishing popular fiction from South Asia, they don’t have a formula for any of their books. The stories are fairly unique, and they are now branching out from romance to crime, which should be great! I’m really looking forward to that. Mind even try my hand at it.

Q7) Will it be too early to talk about your next project? Do you have something going in your fertile mind? Readers will be glad if I can extort a few snippets out of your next.
Natasha: Absolutely not too early! I have already started my next book. I am still working out the intricacies of the conflict in this book, so I’m not revealing that as yet. I will tell you this much: my heroine is, at first glance, an elitist bitch. My hero, also at first glance, is bitter, unlikeable and struggling financially. Both of these are popular stereotypes here and I’d like to change that mindset. My goal is to make my readers love them both by the time they put the book down.

Here’s a small snippet, though be aware that this might be ruthlessly edited by the time it comes out!

“Now?” One of the porters yelled to the driver behind the wheel of the jeep.
“Nope! Nothing!” The driver yelled back. Samir couldn’t understand why they were yelling. The desert was deathly silent, a vast sea of salt plains without sounds of life for miles around. The pale moon hung low in the sky, a bright light source that bounced off the salt marsh and rendered their lamps and torches irrelevant.

[Read the full snippet at the end]

Q8) Arrange them in order of your preference: Arthur Conan Doyle, Sidney Sheldon, JK Rowling, Salman Rushdie, DH Lawrence

Natasha:   D. H. Lawrence, Sidney Sheldon, Salman Rushdie, Arthur Conan Doyle and J. K. Rowling

Q9) A final question- Is it true that a cat is a writer’s best friend?

Natasha: It’s true that my cats are my keyboard’s best friends. They love to drape themselves over it, especially when I’m writing. If I switch to pen and paper, they think the pen is a toy and keep swatting at it. If they weren’t so adorable…

Snippet (continues): 

The whine of the engine cut across the plain as the driver tried yet again to start up the jeep. What a fucking disaster, Samir thought. Their convoy of two jeeps and a Prado was stuck in the middle of nowhere. There was no cell coverage so they couldn’t call anyone, and while one jeep had stalled and refused to start up, the other one had a flat tire and no spare. The Prado was fine, but they were a group of fourteen people and they couldn’t all fit in one SUV, no matter how luxurious it was. He’d have to send someone back to Mithi and have them bring back a spare tire and a mechanic.
Samir surveyed the group of people scattered around the Prado. He should probably send a few of the ‘guests’ along as well. As many as will fit in the Prado, he realized. But who goes? Older guests first, then the goras, have to keep them happy. Zulqarnain needs their money. That’s seven people right there. Seven plus the driver—they could squeeze in, he thought. It was a three-hour drive back to Mithi but the seats in the Prado were fantastic, the shock absorbers as phenomenal.
Behind him, the porter and the driver were still at it. He marveled at their patience. He’d have given up on the damn jeep thirty minutes ago. His gaze swept over the remaining three guests—a young college kid, interning with their organization for the summer, and two women. Zulqarnain’s friends along for the thrill of being able to tell their high society cronies that they were doing ‘charity’ work.
He’d met them all for the first time less than six hours ago. They’d arrived in Mithi the night before and it was his job to ensure they got to Nagarparkar without incident. He didn’t remember their names, nor was he interested in learning about them, except for her.
She definitely did not belong in the desert. She was elegant, casual and the epitome of an elitist bitch. She barely looked at him, or at any of the staff working in Mithi, but everyone had taken a second glance at her, including him, albeit reluctantly. Her hair was shiny, her skin smooth. Her hands were perfectly manicured, and it looked like she’d just stepped out of a beauty parlor. What the fuck was she doing in the middle of nowhere?
Yeah, she’s definitely staying, thought Samir. A night in the desert without a hairdresser or manicurist would take her down a peg or two.
“Listen up.” Samir raised his voice as he strode towards the stragglers. “I’m sending a few of you back to Mithi along with Nasir Jan here. He’s going to bring back a mechanic and some supplies for us.” There was an immediate clamor from the group.
“Some of us?”
“Go back???”
“Why not all of us?” Donald was a stuffy older man, prim in appearance, fastidious in his actions. He had regretted coming on this trip the moment he had left Hyderabad. He’d envisioned a smooth highway to Mithi, a comfortable trip with a view of the desert on either side. Nothing, so far, had gone as expected. One day into the expedition and he was ready to go home. He was sure he wouldn’t be included in the convoy back to Mithi. Surely this he-man would be sending the women back first?
“Because I can’t fit twelve of you into the Prado. I’m good, but not that good.” Samir’s voice was dry.
“So, who gets to go back?” That was… Samir couldn’t remember her name. She was the Australian, full of enthusiasm and energy. Dressed in shalwarkameez, she was the most relaxed of the three foreign women. But she was over fifty and shouldn’t have to camp out in the desert. With precise movements, Samir pointed out the seven people he’d picked to return to Mithi. Donald breathed a huge sigh of relief and made a beeline for the Prado. The others picked up their bags hastily before Samir changed his mind and followed. The remaining three looked at each other in dismay.
“Shouldn’t you send the women home?” One of Zulqarnain’s friends stepped forward. She was the bottle-blonde who had decided to wear jeans to the desert. As a result, she had been sweating profusely since they’d started out. She’d progressively taken off several layers of shirts until she was wearing a sleeveless t-shirt that clung to her non-existent curves.
Samir looked at her. “I’m sending back the older members of this excursion.” He raised his eyebrows in a mock query. “Would that include you?” She shut up.

             You can check out/buy the book here


Thursday, March 27, 2014

15 authors who have influenced me

In Facebook, there is this fun game currently trending. I did a lot of brainstorming, consulted my notes and jotted down these 15 authors/poets who have influenced me in some way or the other. Felt, it would be fair enough to post them on my blog as well (so that I may peruse them later on in my life).

I was tagged by Mehta Pankti into this fun little game:

The Rules: Don't take too long to think about it. Fifteen authors (poets included) who've influenced you and that will always stick with you. List the first 15 you can recall in no more than 15 minutes. Try to tag at least 15 friends, including me, because I'm interested in seeing what authors my friends choose.

1. Enid Blyton 

2. Agatha Christie 

3. Edgar Allan Poe

4. Arthur Conan Doyle

5. DH Lawrence 

6. Jhumpa Lahiri 

7. Danielle Steel 

8. Jules Verne 

9. Satyajit Ray 

10. Leo Tolstoy 

11. JK Rowling 

12. Jim Corbett 

13. RK Narayan 

14. William Wordsworth 

15. Walter de la Mare

Special Mentions: Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Nicholas Sparks, Sidney Sheldon

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Tendulkar and the long hard walk towards sunset

Images are mine, taken from TV

Sometimes, one has to make the most difficult choice in the world since it is the only choice which is there to be made, with no other choice available. The choice I am alluding to is the choice to walk away, to walk away from something you love, to walk away from something you have held on to for such a long time, to walk away from something you thought you would never have to walk away from, to walk away from something you never wanted to walk away from in the first place, to walk away from the thing which wants you to walk away from it knowing well that it would hurt, even destroy, you in many ways.

But then, life is like that. It does not like it to be taken for granted and if you do so out of ignorance or blithe, it sends a reminder in the harshest manner possible. This is what consumed Sachin Tendulkar on the day he had to walk away from the very 22 yards over which he had spent a greater part of his 40 years. It was a cruel reminder that he couldn't take something for granted and a day would inevitably arrive when he would have to take the hardest walk of his life, hardest because it was a walk away from his life, because it was the walk he never intended to take in the first place, because it was the walk which must have come at the cost of a thousand unshed tears and unexpressed sighs.

 In my own personal life too, I have faced situations when I had to walk away from things which were, and still are, very close to my heart. I remember the streak of tear which brushed past my lips on the last day of my college. I had kissed my desk before vacating the classroom never to return to a place I had fallen in love with and had become accustomed to. The tear was a reminder of how I had taken the exuberance of a college ambience for granted. So the pain was foreseeable when that ambience was wretched out of me after my three memorable years of graduation. I cried when I had to end a beautiful relationship and I was lost when I had to walk out of a sweet friendship.

Just when I was beginning to take a few friends for granted, life intervened again and wretched them out of my life! And when Sachin was walking away from the dusty brown pitch for the final time after bending down and giving it an obeisance that spoke for their 3 decades of chaste relationship, he could not suppress his tears. It was then that the gravity of his long walk registered on me. I urgently pressed the red button on my television’s remote, collapsed over the sofa and burst into tears. I cried and cried and cried until I paid off for all the smiles Sachin had given me since my childhood. Ironically, I had only a few salty tears to pay for those smiles. And when I ran out of tears, my heart was left grappling with a void too deep to be ever filled back again. Sachin was gone. Just when I had got used to his presence, life had wretched him too. But no matter how hard it may try, life will never be able to wretch his memories out of my heart. It was a long hard walk back to sunset for both of us. It was a difficult walk but a journey well lived.

~Ritesh Agarwal

Author’s Bio: At 28, Ritesh Agarwal is too much in love with his childhood memories to be christened an adult. A major part of those memories have something or the other to do with Sachin Tendulkar who has been a constant in Ritesh’s life ever since he was ten. When not reminiscing about Sachin, Ritesh spends his time pursuing freelance writing, weaving short stories, teaching high school students and eating tomatoes on the sly after midnight. 

Friday, March 14, 2014

Which colour best defines who you are

Image Source:

When t2 recently asked this question, my face blanched for a moment, not knowing what to say.

But then I stared deep into the mirror, almost peeping into my reflection's soul only to discover that there is plenty of white in me (honesty, transparency and purity of soul to an extent..umm). I have always associated a bit of girlishness in me. So, a bit of pink also lurks somewhere. A bit of grey (okay, not as many as 50 shades perhaps) and perhaps a hint of black. Yellow, I am not sure. Green, definitely no. Blue, definitely yes. And I have never been fond of red, but who knows. Maybe with passage of time, I shall reveal my true colours to me.

Colourfully yours,
Ritesh Agarwal

PS- Now readers, which colour best defines you? Red, blue or black?

Was Dolores Umbridge raped inside the Forbidden Forest?

Source: Google images

‘Two characters watch Umbridge getting dragged away -- Harry Potter and Hermione Granger. At least one of those two knows that centaurs are rape machines.’ [Source-]

The climax of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix may have belched some satisfactory answers to myriad questions puzzling the readers throughout the 750-odd pages of this thick volume, but it also left something unanswered and unexplained.

In the book, it was clearly mentioned that nobody got an inkling of what actually transpired in the forest (except for Umbridge and Dumbledore, of course). Harry Potter himself never got to know of the secret (in fact, he never bothered to find it out). And since this book has been written from the point of view of Harry, the readers get to see precisely what he sees (except for an occasional chapter here and there).

Curiosity amongst readers was bound to find its way in online streams and threads. So, discussions and debates ensued between people sitting two continents and an ocean apart, many of whom having Harry Potter as the only thing common between them. A consensus, however, could never be reached. It was more of an open ending where the reader is allowed to make his interpretation.

Centaurs are mythological creatures and they have a notorious reputation for being serial rapists. Professor Dolores Umbridge was abducted by the centaurs of the Forbidden Forest and she was visibly disturbed and benumbed when she returned to school (after being rescued by Dumbledore).

Was she raped? Was she not?

Only one person in the world can put all such discussions and debates to rest. JK Rowling has already sent a few shock waves by making a disclosure of the homosexual profile of Albus Dumbledore and, more recently, of the appropriateness of a Harry-Hermione match (and the probable discord in Ron-Hermione relationship).

Will Rowling ever reveal this bit of information centering around Umbridge? Only time will tell.

Personally, I believe that she was raped. What’s your take on it?

~Ritesh Agarwal

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Dream destination of a delinquent dreamer

Copyright- Ritesh

Picking up one dream destination is tough (since I have many dreams and hence many destinations in my dreams ;) ), but if I am asked to pick just one for 2014, it has to be Goa. Not because everybody keeps talking about it or because it is GOA, but because I dreamt of it (yes I actually dreamt of it) and in my dreams I had a virtual tour of this place.

A quote by a famous literary character goes as, “It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live,” but then we are talking dream destination, right?

So, GOA it is.

Now, the best way to travel is to travel smart (incidentally, that is also the cheapest way to travel).

So, when do I go?

Though December-January is the best time to go to Goa, being a smart traveler that I am, I will plan the trip in the off-season. Somewhere between April and September should help me save a lot of 100-rupee notes. Besides, I know how to book my hotel online (in advance) so as to avail the highest discounts. is one portal which has been making a lot of waves. It rides on heavy brand-value, reputation and word-of-mouth publicity. I can easily book my flights and hotel rooms from here in advance and save cool bucks. The cherry on the cake is that Skyscanner is also going to help me to rent cars (after all, I intend to do a lot of sightseeing and go click-click with my pocket-burning Nikon camera).

Now, you may ask, why Goa?
I say, why not GOA?

It’s a place where there are over 40 beaches.

Copyright- Ritesh

It’s a place where there are sports…

Copyright- Ritesh

And  romance

Copyright- Ritesh

And ahem…hot women  ;)


And sunsets…

Copyright- Ritesh

Nobel-prize winning literary genius Rabindranath Tagore used to sing, “Jodi tor gaan shune keu naa aashey tobe eklaa cholo re”. Roughly translated it means ‘if nobody comes calling at your song, then walk alone.’

So, my Goa trip is going to be a solo holiday

Where I can do things my own way (the smart way) without any protests and disapprovals…

Where I can dip my legs in the sand...

Copyright- Ritesh

Where I can play with kids....

Copyright- Ritesh

Where I can photograph beach dogs...

Copyright- Ritesh

Where I can visit the Basilica of Bom Jesus....

Copyright- Ritesh

Where I can sink into prawns and lobsters…

Copyright- Ritesh

 Where I can meet new people.....

Copyright- Ritesh

And where I can discover life, discover myself, discover the child within me….

Copyright- Ritesh

[This travelogue has been written for the travel portal and price-comparing site in association with]

Note: All photographs are mine

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Love can happen for the stupidest of reasons

Image Source: Google Images

When you fall in love if you ever fall in love, you may discover that love often happens for the stupidest of reasons. A girl may meet/court/date dozens of super-intelligent and super-handsome men but she will fail to fall in love with any of them, which is remarkably surprising since she should have ideally fallen in love with all of them. But in the end, when she does fall in love, she is so likely to fall in love with someone who has average brains and below-average looks. Quite often, it is a person’s stupidity and his vulnerability which make girls fall in love with them.

Earlier this week, one of my best friends got married. On her way to marriage, she had her share of relationships but she bypassed all those young and hunkier males to ultimately walk the aisle with someone who is 12 years older to her and is rather a quiet and unassuming sort of a person.

On personal front, I am currently violently in love with Ileana D’Cruz. And the reason why I fell in love with her in the first place is that she has crooked teeth.
Told ya, love can happen for the stupidest of reasons…..

~Ritesh Agarwal

Saturday, March 8, 2014

8 things you surely didn't know about Agatha Christie

1] Agatha Christie, as a child (then Agatha Miller) cried one whole day after her pet canary Dickie flew away. It was only late in the evening that they discovered that the impish Dickie was merely hiding over the curtain pole.

2] The young Agatha, once, hid her French book since she was quite fed up of the subject and her French tutor. Later, she was caught when her mother cleverly announced a chocolate as a reward to anyone who finds it. As Agatha recalls, her greed for chocolates was her undoing.

3] Agatha credits her sister Madge for introducing Holmes into her life. It was Madge who narrated to Agatha her first Sherlock Holmes story- The Blue Carbuncle. The Blue Carbuncle, The Red-headed League and The Five Orange Pips were Agatha’s favorites.

4] Bathing was one of the joys of Agatha’s life and she enjoyed it throughout her life, though rheumatism made it slightly less enjoyable for her during her twilight years.

5] Speaking of the celebrated author Charles Dickens, Agatha writes, “Our first Dickens was Nicholas Nickleby, and my favourite character was the old gentleman who courted Mrs Nickleby by throwing vegetable marrows over the wall. Can this be one of the reasons why I made Hercule Poirot retire to grow vegetable marrows? Who can say? My favourite Dickens of all was Bleak House, and still is.”

6] Once Agatha received a direct proposal by a man (one Mr. S) in an empty coach in a train. She told him no in an icy coldness and he leant back in gloom, both feeling miserable and awkward over the next 2 hours of train journey.

7] When pushed by her mother, Agatha wrote her first story ‘The House of Beauty’ towards her late teens.

8] She sketched her character of Alfred Inglethorpe (in her first novel ‘The Mysterious Affair at Styles’) on a bearded man she saw in a tram. 

Information compiled from An Autobiography of Agatha Christie

Monday, March 3, 2014

Review of 2 States, a novel by Chetan Bhagat

Image source: Google

[This review has been penned by blogger Karthik alias 'The Fool'. I thank him wholeheartedly for doing this guest post.]

I heard of Chetan Bhagat way back in 2005. There used to be a big hype about him in my social circles that consisted mainly of software engineers and MBA aspirants and the first question anyone asked me when I told I was from IIT was whether I had read ‘Five Point Someone’. I have this rebellious streak in me and a penchant for going against the popular tide just for the heck of it. So I resolved never to even touch this author with a barge pole. However things had changed by the time ‘Two States’ got released in 2009. Many of the readers of the popular ‘Bride Hunt’ series on my blog were hailing me as the next ‘Chetan Bhagat’. So I was naturally curious to check out the writing of this author in whose footsteps I purportedly was following. Added attraction was the fact that this story was set in my alma mater, IIM Ahmedabad. Sloth and inertia might have still kept me from this book but for the intervention of my wife, a sworn Chetan Bhagat loyalist, who brought him right up to our drawing room book shelf.

I found the book to be quite a breezy read. There was not a single dull moment and I completed the book in a single hour and a half long session on a lazy morning before going in to work. The best thing about the book was the characterization of the protagonist. I could relate to the character and I found myself rooting for him. The story told in a first person narrative of an underdog protagonist clearly brings sympathy of the reader for him. This character is also well suited for the self-deprecatory humorous narrative that gives the reader quite a few laughs. Having been through the portals of the institute where major part of the story is set in, I could personally relate to many of the places and situations mentioned in the book and that made me nostalgic.

While the parts of the story drawn from the author’s real life experiences have come out very well, I felt the areas where he has tried to be creative fall flat on his face. The descriptions of life at a B-School, the professors, campus interviews etc. are interesting as are the descriptions of the professional setting at a bank. The author manages to use these to good effect to bring humor through satire. In his portrayal of the north south divide in the interactions of the protagonist with his girlfriend’s parents and her interaction with his parents, one can see a mixture of real life experiences and clich├ęs based on popular stereotypes. While the portions based on real life manage to deliver a few laughs, the rest stands out like a sore thumb. I also found the melodrama surrounding the protagonist’s relationship with his father and in a few other places such as the way he decides on marrying his girlfriend unrealistic as well as uninteresting.

One of the areas that did not work for me in this book was the plot. I found it to be unoriginal and completely devoid of novelty: a rehash of age old formulas from Bollywood – stories of love overcoming cultural divide between protagonists and comical attempts of protagonists to win the heart of their lovers’ families. Due to this reason I am not at all excited about the idea of the planned movie based on this book. While ‘Five Point Someone’ brought some new ideas to the table, this book would be giving back to Bollywood, its own jaded worn out themes. I suspect the lackadaisical and inane plot is what the film makers are likely to take from the book and miss out the more endearing aspects such as the self-depreciative humor and the satire around life in B-Schools and corporate world.

As far as the book goes, I would definitely recommend this book as a light read for the casual reader. However this book is a pure entertainer with hardly any takeaway and language that is nothing to write home about. So language pundits and serious readers may do well to give this a miss.

Bio:Karthik is a Bangalore based blogger. A management consultant by profession, he has been blogging since 2008 under an unusual moniker ‘The Fool’. He is very passionate about reading and writing, especially in the science fiction and fantasy genres. He maintains two blogs – ‘Lucifer House Inc.” and “Three Realms of the Mind’ where he writes on various topics across multiple genres – fiction, poetry, satire, memoirs, book reviews, philosophy to name a few. Two of his stories have been published in anthologies and he dreams of becoming a full time writer someday. 

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