What a silly book. It borders on soft pron for those few chapters! One of my ‘intellectual’ friends described it this way. While it is very easy and seemingly popular to look at various ways to trash talk and sign off Chetan Bhagat’s latest book – One Indian Girl, as another run of the mill story and call him names, let us look at the story with an unjudging fervor.
The story as the blurb says is of an Indian girl – Radhika Mehta who is a nerd of sorts and breaks every stereo typed assumption you have of what an Indian girl should be. She is smart, educated, successful professional, makes tons of money, highly opinionated, has her share of relationships and is unfazed by her mistakes and yet has this inner character conscience meter that keeps oscillating all the time. Radhika’s story begins with her entire family landing in Goa for her destination wedding and how the rituals play through the next seven days. While the manager in her tries to iron out the logistics issues of the too expensive wedding she sponsored, handle the melodramatic wedding characters (trust me every wedding has one of these people who throw tantrums and actively seek out a chance to disrupt everything), she has her own inner fight to handle as her past haunts her.
There are two flashbacks in her story, okay three or two and a half to be precise and both take you on a round the world tour to New York and Hong Kong. This isn’t the first time Chetan takes you abroad in his books but this is quite different. Well it is a girl at the end of the day! You may ask some interesting questions. How can a girl stay alone in an apartment in New York and live-in with a guy? How can she be so successful at work when her personal life is in shambles? How can she be so indecisive in her personal life and her be so incisive at her hostile takeovers at work? How can she describe the waxing in such detail? How can she have sex! Damn! Does she have any shame? Where is our culture? Well, the list can go on. Or you can read it as a story without prejudice.
In ‘One Indian Girl’, Chetan brings you the struggle most of the successful women face in today’s world. This is the story of every woman who tried to think on her own, take decisions on her own, lead life on her owns terms, judged by her looks, complimented about her complexion, sneered at and yet is expected to now her head in agreement to the patriarchal society. Only in Radhika, she matches your stare and questions your intentions, ideals and beliefs. There is a wave rising and you cannot suppress it. Radhika is the ambassador to that wave. A new age woman who can think on her own, take decisions against the norm and yet be happy.
The book also introduces two kinds of men. One is an immature, yet dominant and cannot grasp with the success of his woman and feels the need to lock her indoors, make her a wife-material which we have been doing for generations and seeks his male chuvanist bravado in being another stereotype boyfriend. We have tons of them around and many promising dreams and careers ended because of people like that. The second is the successful guy who suddenly realises he can do better and seeks a solution in midlife crisis not even considering what he is doing. In his pursuit of exuberance, manages to trample upon someone else. Playing with fire and life.
So the story is played out in Marriott resort in Goa where both Radhika’s exes turn up claiming her hand and Radhika has to choose her way out of the three options she has including the groom. What she decides is the crux of the story. While you can call Chetan names and sneer at his description of Radhika’s adventures, you cannot take away his depiction of this Brijesh character. Thankfully he is a lotus in this murky pond and may his kind increase. The story would be a like a bowl of chicken broth without salt but for the fresh thinking humanist touch. He is the healing herb we all need.
Is this a story written for the Bollywood audience? Why not? Goa, New York, Hong Kong, London, Brooklyn Bridge, love, break up, romance, Philippines, private islands and what not. It has everything you need in one package. Are there brand placements? Yes. So what? I want to believe Chetan takes up the cause of the devil’s advocate and presents it to you in a direct unapologetic way. Take it or leave it. If you find it offensive, remember this is the land that invented Kamasutra. As Radhika would say, you may not like it. If this was the story of a boy, we would have hundreds of people who could relate to the story. A coming of age story that every boy should read!
PS. I gave Chetan’s Half Girlfriend 1/5 rating.
Chetan, I know you like the music but can you turn it down a bit?