Chetan Bhagat and his Wife Anusha (Ex-class mate at IIMA).

About ten years ago, on the campus of Ahmedabad's Indian Institute of Management (IIM), Punjabi boy Chetan Bhagat fell in love with Tamilian girl Anusha. But unlike a typical 'Western' love story, theirs wasn't a simple three-step process of boy-loves-girl, girl-loves-boy, and they-got-married.

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Instead, they had to survive the multi-step obstacle course of an 'Indian love marriage'. The invite to the launch function of his latest potboiler, 2 States: The Story Of My Marriage, enumerates all the steps: "Boy loves girl. Girl loves boy. Girl's family has to love boy. Boy's family has to love girl. Girl's family has to love boy's family. Boy's family has to love girl's family. Girl and boy still love each other. They get married." And adds Bhagat, on the back flap, "Yes, if you live through all these steps, then you too can have a love marriage. Like I did."

Bhagat's latest novel -- his best so far -- is a cunning combination of wish-fulfillment fantasy and matrimonial voyeurism. Much as he protests that this is purely a work of fiction, he doesn't mind holding out the promise of a peep into the travails he and his girlfriend underwent, trying to 'convince' their respective families, before they became man and wife. The "Like I did" is a friendly, encouraging wink at India's mass of lovelorn youngsters confronted with a choice between parental wrath (in smaller towns, much more than wrath) and broken heart.

Recalling his own experience, Bhagat says, "For my parents, the number one sticking point was that she is South Indian." As a 'South Indian' myself, I can't help but gag at this all-too-familiar clumping of four states into one. "Did they have a problem with her being a South Indian or with her being a Tamilian?" I ask. "They didn't care. For them, it was all the same. Madrasi hai to sab same hai." And the hostility was duly reciprocated by his wife's family. "From her side also, the biggest reservation was that I was not a Brahmin and I was not a Tamilian."

Bhagat laughs as he remembers how both their families felt their child had been 'trapped' by the other. "We were the quintessential, over-achieving middle-class kids. Both of us went to IIM, held lucrative jobs. Our parents should've been okay with whatever we did because we had done a lot of things right! Instead it made them feel worse -- they felt that because their child has done so well, he/she deserved someone 'good' from their own community. In my case, my family had the additional chip of being the boy's side.
And a very well-qualified boy, too, who had a great market -- it's rare to find a Punjabi boy who's IIT-IIM."

Considering that they were both financially independent, couldn't they have easily gone ahead and married against their families' wishes? "We could have," admits Bhagat. "But we didn't want to shove the decision down their throats. It's easy to fight but very hard to convince."

And his novel, too, he adds, is about winning people over. And overcoming prejudices. Thanks to his marriage to a Tamilian, Bhagat was forced to confront his own preconceptions about 'South Indians' and accept cultural differences. His biggest 'problem' was that he found Tamil Brahmins to be "puritanical and closed." Closed to what? "Closed to emotions, unlike Punjabis, who like to express themselves, and do so boisterously." He illustrates his claim with an example.

"Tamilians will discuss the nuclear non-proliferation treaty within the family. But they won't openly express their feelings for each other. Even dancing among Punjabis is for fun. But for Tamils, it's Bharatnatyam, which is serious business. You don't laugh when you're doing it. I used to find all this strange, but now I've accepted that this is just the way they are."

Given that this novel is autobiographical, did his wife have any reservations about his portrayal of 'her family' or 'invasion of privacy' issues? "Yes, she did make a few cuts," admits Bhagat. . "At places I got a bit too romantic, and she told me, 'I go to office, I work in a bank, and even though you say it is fiction, people are going to guess.' Also, when making fun of stereotypes, I went over-board; she made me tone it down." Like for example? "For example, when Krish [the boy character] lands at Chennai airport, he finds that everyone is dark, compared to Delhi airport. I didn't think it was offensive, it's just an observation: some people are dark, some people are fairer. But apparently, it's not good to say that some people are dark."

Bhagat's wife Anusha admits that she did have certain reservations. "On his portrayal of the girl's family, and of the Tamil community, I told him, you have to be more sensitive here." She also played the censor on the privacy front.

"I gave him feedback about certain things I was not comfortable with," she says, and adds quickly, half in panic, "Please understand, the plot is fictionalised, this is not about my marriage." And she takes pains to explain she doesn't want people to assume that the events in the book actually happened in their lives. "The real takeaway for me, from my own experience of an inter-state marriage, is that it's all about people going for the qualities that they have, and not about other things we have no control over -- such as our community of birth."

Yet when a family does oppose a marriage, more than individual reservations, the core issue is often the question of what 'society', or the extended family of relatives will say.

"Even when they realise that the boy or girl is good, their fear of social censure is greater," observes Bhagat. But he believes, true to his chosen vocation of dream-peddler (Bhagat is now full-time into screenplay writing) that true love will conquer all. "I hope my novel will inspire more and more inter-state marriages. It's the best strategy for national integration."



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37 comments:

chaitanya said...

hi this is chaitanya. you are type of presentation of story is extra ordinary. once we started studying the book it will going to sit in the mind until its completion.that much interest will be created by you. you are awsome.

MAYANK said...

chaitanya what should i say c is absltly write

Smitha said...

Really really very good presentation..while reading this story you feel like as though things are just happening just infront of you...for the first time I felt pen is mighter than sword..

SWATI said...

its awesome..............i jst love the way represent. heads of u chetan...

Anonymous said...

Really it`s awesome.
While I was reading the book I did feel that the things are happening around me and you just put it in the words.

Anonymous said...

i am in love with this story, it affects me a lot, i hardly find such lovers. heads of 2 u.

Anonymous said...

i am in love with dis story. its realy very hard to make parents agree.

Chaitanya said...

Hey, even my name is Chaitanya... Hey, Gotta admit, our names are very rare =) ...

Anonymous said...

i too thinks & appreciate them, as i also had to face this controversial probs

Anonymous said...

One of the best book i have read ever... Chetan Bhagat You rock

Anonymous said...

One of the best book i have read ever... Chetan Bhagat You rock

Rashmi Ranjan Patra said...

Hi this is vicky....2 states is areally awesome love story book.... i wish i could be acharacter in that book... but bad luck....Still i am in love with the story and this book... Chetan Bhagat u rock as always..

Rashmi Ranjan Patra said...

Hi this is vicky....2 states is areally awesome love story book.... i wish i could be acharacter in that book... but bad luck....Still i am in love with the story and this book... Chetan Bhagat u rock as always..

Banajit said...

Its really awesome... your book/life story touched my heart...it reminds me of my ex-girlfriend who left me for family reasons.....:(

ABHISHEK MITRA said...

2 States....the story is mind-blowing.If what you have written had really happened in your life then you are having an extraordinary life and I wish to have a similar life. It really inspired me for IIT so that i can have a similar girlfriend who will have such high qualifications. Good luck for your upcoming books. Abhishek

L3G3ndKiLL3R said...

Thnx

vishal asolkar said...

chetan your love marriage is awesome.you work very hard for it.i read your book many times because i find my love story is similar to yours,only climax is changed.she is getting married to real life harish in this may and i am doing nothing..!

L3G3ndKiLL3R said...

Thanks All....If u really love her and she loves u a s well...go for her...if its one sided at this moment...let it go...someone is waiting for u :)

vishal asolkar said...

its not one sided,we were in relation for almost a year..her parents are forcing her to get married to someone else and as she dosen't want to hurt them,she broke the relation and now she is getting married next month..i am feeling like A BIG LOOSER...

vishal asolkar said...

its not one sided,we were in relationship for almost a year..her parents want her to get engaged with someone else,and as she doesn't want to hurt them,she's getting married next month..i am feeling like A BIG LOOSER nowadays...

jawahar priya said...

Hai its jawahar from tamilnadu,,,i love ur novels much,, revolution 2020 is very nice,,i luv it much..

pArtH....! JusT ParTh..... said...

No--Comments.......! Only Dreaming The Outstanding Journey oF ur Life................

nihitha said...

hey i imagined tht ur wife was so cute as u wrote in 2states...bt she s nt soooo gud....:p

bt u r...gud... nd im ur gr8...fan:*

Reshma said...

I recently completed reading 2 states. I did read the previous books of your's though which completely interests me to heaven. While I was reading the story, it felt as though I was reading my own story, though not exactly a replica but to a great extent, it did mine too. Though me and my love were from same state in fact same caste, my parents were against it and after 41/2 years of great struggle, our parents agreed, but we are not married yet. We still got to settle.
I just love the way you portray the love making thing, emotions, the comparisons you make are just fantabulous. All your books are fultoo fun to read.!!!

ankit shrivastava...satna said...

chaitanya,MAYANK, Smitha, SWATI, Rashmi, Ranjan, Patra, Banajit,ABHISHEK,vishal asolkar u are all absolutely right chetan sir is amazing. He is born singer really.

Anonymous said...

I LOVE UR BOOK CHETAN........SUCH A SUPERB LOVE STORY.......IT JUST INSPIRED ME A LOT........OFCOURSE LOVE MAKES LIFE BEAUTIFUL......WHAT IS LIFE WITHOUT LOVE?EVERGREEN LOVE STORY....I THINK NOW U HAV LEARNT TAMIL.....EVEN MY LOVE S ALSO 2 STATES...AM BELONGS TO UR WIFE'S STATE...MY GUY BELONGS TO NEXT STATE OF MINE....VAAZHTHUKAL CHETAN AND ANUSHA........

Anonymous said...

i liked ur book chetan..it inspired me a lot......ofcourse true love wins at last....even my love is 2 states....i belong to ur wife's state.my guy belongs to next state of mine.......hope v gonna convince our parents...s v ll.......i think u have learnt tamil from ur wife....vaazhthukal for u and ur wife........

Irshadrafi said...

The way how you presented your stories / writings made me to sit until I finish them. It was really interesting.. the way how you wrapped the story with funny comparisons and all made me I'm living with you through out the stories...

Thanks lot for giving us such a wonderful experience and I'm proud to live in your time.

Regards and looking forward
Irshad RAFI

ADITHYA said...

Its been months after reading your book, the thing is it still flashes in my mind! .. I've been inspired by your thoughts, expression and geniusness!

Anonymous said...

Hi Chetan,
U are outstanding .....
I love ur all novels n believ me I got 'F' in exam on ur each novel lonching just coz of u... Hahaha! Strange bt tats true, all time ur novel comes on my exam time n I did read ur book instead of my exam book in whole night n in morning, I got fresher m came out for exam... Hahaha , tat was good time!!!
Much of ur collection reminds me of my GF.....
N u know wat ur 2-states story is same in my case bt just differ tat u merried ur gal n I had lost my one��.
Still missing her lot dude n a lit pain has more incredible still now..... Bt tat was past!!
Still I m waitin to hear her voice since last 5 yrs bt it can't!!! Whenevr I read ur novel, a drop of tear has always rolled out m tats damn true.. Ur words are killer dear ...

Ur doing best job.. Keep doing!!!
M waiting for ur next novel vigorously...

Have a grt time..
Take care!!!
Ur one fan.

Ibrahim Lodi said...

THE way u have explained hats off 2 u and really once u start reading u will not want to sop reading i read d whole day and completed

Anonymous said...

i never used to like reading books , any sort of books. bt after reading yr book i jst luv it.
thanx fr yr contribution to dis society

Anonymous said...

i never used to like reading books , any sort of books. bt after reading yr book i jst luv it.
thanx fr yr contribution to dis society

Anonymous said...

Ur book 2 states was jus awsme..loved it...!!nd krish was d best ....lovd him...

Safijish said...

I just love your brain

Anonymous said...

hi this is the first book ive completed in one day i just couldnt stop reading it once i started toooo goood...

kiran said...

I really enjoyed readng this story ...I m inspired too ...as I m also in love wid a boy who belong to different religion ........we r toghter frm 7 years ...nw also we love each othrr as we do in saw eachother first .....inspired by ur book sir I have writng him a letter ...lyk ananya does ....its amazng story ...I loved it ...