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Monday, May 19, 2008

The 3 Mistakes of my Life by Chetan Bhagat (Book Review)


This one was long anticipated. The best-selling Indian novelist brings together another installment in showcasing the everyday life of some of the most common, unassuming and inconspicuous people of India. Titled 3 Mistakes of my Life, but disappointingly, has nothing to do with Mr. Bhagat’s life in itself. Anyway, its something fictional, but an entertainer in all. Before I consume your patience with vague descriptions like these, let me get started with the review…

The plot is pretty simple, 3 average students, Govind, Ish and Omi having a hard time living think of entrepreneurship. In middle come an an entire big host of people, problems and pressures. Its about how they react, solve and live with those problems. Just like his older books, he chose a batch of people who truly represent a good proportion of urban India. This book is picturised in the older and slightly lesser developed part of Ahmedabad, Gujarat and features loads of Gujjus(Read: Hindi slang to refer to Gujaratis). Although no vernaculars could be observed in the book to make it funny in the slapstick sense, the very style of writing makes it really funny and entertaining. Many things that might feel Gujju there might be references to several places or locations in Ahmedabad, Gujju food, and of course, names that truly sound Gujju. But then, I really missed the name Jigness Kumar and a whole bunch of *readable* Gujju vernaculars there!

After reading the book, I kind of felt that it had just one major objective. Making the Indian youth vigilant and aware of some of the biggest problems that plague its society. The list of problems could be very long, but well, Wordpress’s tinyMCE editor does have a bullet/numbering functionality for some reason, right? Feel free to scroll down and continue reading the rest o the review. I just wanted to point out that Chetan covered the following problems in his book…

Expensive Education
Lack of development in smaller towns
Conservative mentality
Extremism in politics
Sick politicians
Religious extremism
Bias towards agnostics and atheists
Poverty amongst the brighter lower-middle class youth
Extreme competition in entrance exams fr college admissions
Success is hard to get
Offbeat ideas receive suppression
Lack of sports education/infra-structure in schools, etc
Completely study oriented schools
Small-scale businesses are extremely risky
Advanced coaching for exams is expensive so only the upper-middle class receive that
Drift between religions, castes, etc
Conservative mentality of parents
Hypocrisy among public, politicians, and everyone alike
Lack of awareness, foresight and ideas due to lack of quality education
Smaller schools lack funds and money in everything, just bigger school students get everything
Bad quality contraceptive devices that don’t allow Indians to get bold early
Heavy mugger-friendly curriculum
Monotonous books, pathetic teachers, result oriented study
Lack of scientific temper
Students prejudiced about certain subjects and losing interest
People just want to earn, and passion for anything is dead
Prodigies and talented folks are mostly unrecognized and all that dies away as unharnessed potential
Expensive international air tickets, nice food and even good reference material
Stereotyped mentality of 99% of parents …. I had enough of it and I guess you did too. Just know that it had many more of it…

Oh well, I could go along all my life just covering the problems Mr. Bhagat put on those measly souls. But then, he makes a point clear. Indians live with many of these, even most of the readers do. The story was just a nicer way of illustrating the most extreme faces of these problems. In some places, the book does seem a little cliched with a few situations seeming too obvious in the setting. Like there is this bloke named Ish, who is a talented cricketer who didn’t go anywhere thanks to his involvement with cricket. So well, it was too obvious that his parents, especially his stereotypically grumpy Indian Dad always taunting against his failures, sometimes, simply for the heck of it! And simply for the heck of covering many of these problems, Bhagat creates or sets up certain scenarios a tad too forcefully… He even chose the best possible time-span to set the story in. Between 1999-2002, India faced the worst of all. Worst of riots, the worst of earthquakes and there were a hoard of problems especially in the part of India he spotlighted on. So well, the book in the end seems a little more than a detailed study of these problems… The book did go pretty much on the over-board side, especially in the ending. Seriously speaking, it did feel like a wonderful plot to a hindi movie with Chetan Bhagat trying to keep the book as riveting as possible.

But then, I did find the book an entertainer, but not for the same reasons why I found his previous books, Five Point Someone and One Night@the Call Center. Story and setting did slack off at places, but the writing style simply caught my mind. Several one-liners, witty metaphoric comparisons and unique usage of words with examples plucked from lives of all of us living in the sub-continent did have me bowing down at the same time munching at the food for thought he provided. A few things that he wrote in the book were such that, we might always have it in our mind, but then never have we ever managed to phrase that situation out into a clever statement… At times, he feels just so right. But then at times, it feels that parts of this book were just Chetan speaking out to the public and having his opinion read. And the pricing of the book makes it affordable for even those people documented in the book and even piracy-proof!

There are lofty many things that make Chetan Bhagat a wonderful writer targeting Indian youth. His writing isn’t the same as H2G2, where enjoying the humor means inclination to something, isn’t the same as fantasy writers, who spend a large portion of their publications just explaining the jargon and commodities that they imagined, and neither is it like those philosophical but anecdotal ones like say Sudha Murthy… It just feels almost, but not quite, entirely unlike Me, and many others who are a part of the growing India. The way he managed to put the un-phrased thoughts sitting in the minds of many of us is something that brings me to no surprise to have his third book soaring for success. I would be waiting to read more from him… I wish he updated his so-called blog more often!

Price: Rs. 95/- although ask for discounts in leading book stores.

PS - The book doesn’t have as much of cricket or the fanatic kind of cricket you might assume after looking at the cover, which does look pretty neat.
Posted by Bookworm at 2:39 PM |


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