Chetan Bhagat contradicts himself. His latest book, One Indian Girl, is all about feminism, but as one of his characters says in the book, it’s more about humanism these days. Wish Bhagat had taken a tip or two from his character.
As the title suggests, the story is about an Indian girl. One who’s super-successful, makes loads of money, has a high-flying career, has had relationships and regular sex—all by the age of 25 years. So what, you might ask? Well, yeah, so do we. So what, Mr Bhagat?
But, obviously, it’s a big deal for the author. So we have Radhika Mehta, a nerd who keeps her nose buried in books all the time, tops all her classes, goes to prestigious academic institutions and lands a job at Goldman Sachs in New York. From there on, her career path is a steep climb upwards. But there’s love and loss on the way, supplemented on the side with a mother who is constantly trying to marry her off. She even persuades Radhika to settle for an arranged marriage. Whether she succeeds or not is for you to find out.
Two things make you wince in this book. The biggest is how Bhagat lays on the feminism too thick. The stereotypes he paints are far removed from reality—that an intelligent woman has to be a nerd who has never had her legs waxed, or is clueless on how to interact with men. Come on, which IIM is a girls’-only institution where women never interact with men? Even girls’ schools are not preferred these days.
And which parent will send a daughter to the most prestigious of organisations and not be proud of her success, worrying instead that no one will marry her because she makes too much money? To lay it on thicker, Bhagat has caricatures like a beautiful sister who knows nothing except make-up and clothes, and for whom getting married is the only ambition. Some contrast this.
Deals are foregone because of sexist remarks by clients. That the protagonist has a clever plan has to be reiterated, because, well, she is a woman. Not expected from a woman to be clever!
Goldman Sachs is the second pain in the book. As per Bhagat, there can’t be a more sympathetic, fair, just and great place to work at. It just might be, but the author didn’t have to extoll the virtues of Goldman Sachs on every page, lest the readers forget, god forbid!
Education, career, marriage and bearing children are conscious choices made by women these days; they are not forced upon them, at least not among the educated. Intended to be a “finding herself” book, sadly, Bhagat’s one Indian girl is constantly lost.