I recently read Chetan Bhagat's novel Two States (2009).
The book was highly recommended by a friend and since I had moderately liked Five Point Someone and One night at the Call Centre, I was rather curious to read it.
The novel is autobiographical by the writer's own admission and is inspired by his marriage to Anusha Suryanarayanan. The name of the 'hero' Krish is reminiscent of Hari from Five Point Someone. Krish is a Punjabi, who again studied at IIT.
Well the positives first.
It is a realistic, first hand account of student life and of the campus recruitment process in India. The book aims to outline the complications arising from love marriage in India with the added complications of an Interstate union. Bhagat begins with an intense focus on the two people in love and then slowly pans the camera as it were, to introduce the family members on either side, one by one.
It is commendable that the writer has devoted only a few pages to the boy-meets-girl-falls-in-love part and devotes the rest of the narration to familial conflicts that arise. Bhagat accentuates an important nuance of marriages in India - marriages here are not just between two individuals, but between two entire families.
If I were to accord percentages to the handling of different interactions within the story - it would go something like this -
Girl and boy- 50%
Girl's family description -25%
Boy's family description- 15%
Boy's experiences in Chennai - 10%
I believe, like most others that, for a novel to be credible it must have characters that are realistic. CB seems to have devoted all of his attention to the two main characters in the book. Other than them, it is disappointing to find stereotyped characters floating all over the book, who had no substance to themselves.
The second glaring disappointment in the book is the lack of adequate research about the language and practices of the Tambrahm community. He ought to have paid closer attention to the transliteration of Tamizh words that dot the book. There are quite a few misspellings too of very commonly used words.
Yet, despite the literati lament, writers like him will rise and flourish as they cater to an emerging and ever growing audience that values light reading over literary merit.