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Book Review on One Indian Girl

Writer: Chetan Bhagat


Published October 1, 2016
One Indian Girl begins with a Punjabi family. Check. Obviously, there is a wedding. Check. You
cant possibly forget a dramatic mother coupled with a relatively sober father and a troupe of
aunties. Check. Chetan Bhagat could probably come up with a code for what entertains the
Indian masses, for Punjabis plus a wedding seems to be his favorite algorithm. And One Indian
Girl is not too different.
The plot of One Indian Girl reads like a colour-by-numbers exercise book on Bollywood
scriptwriting Punjabi wedding? Check. Comedy sequence with bumbling aunties? Check.
Locations in New York, Hong Kong and London? Check, check, check. The central premise of
the novel is no less formulaic: An immensely successful woman has to choose between three
brainless-but-adorable men. One is a self-confessed bore and cricket and Bollywood enthusiast.
The second is a Bengali communist with an unfortunate penchant for the word baby. The third
is a highly desirable but entirely inappropriate older man. But why would Radhika Mehta
successful, stylish, kind want to choose any of these three moronic men is the question. The only
reason she could have for falling in love with them is that she is so insecure that she simply
cannot believe that they chose her. Women with low self-esteem issues do strange things, and Im
sure there are lots of high-achieving women out there heartbroken about men who do not deserve
their attention. Who are we to dictate what Radhika should feel or not feel? The problem is that
Bhagat never tells us why she is so hung up about men so unworthy of her. Its as though he
assumes that it is completely normal for intelligent and successful women to be besotted with
jerks.
Lets be honest. One Indian Girl never set off to be a feminist book. Bhagats politics are
probably closer to that of his character Brijesh Gulati: I think all human beings should have
equal rights. Its not men versus women, its human versus human. Feminist is a wrong term. It
should be humanist. After her moment of self-actualisation, thats the conclusion Bhagats
protagonist, Radhika, also makes. Everything doesnt need hi-fi labels like feminism. Just
logic, she says, and they skip away into the sunset, content with their mutual reasonableness,
dismissing a 300-year-old fierce history of a socio-political movement. Is every story from a
womans perspective obligated to be a feminist one? I dont think so. But the problem is that
somewhere down the line, Bhagat lost the plot and instead of writing a book from the point of
view of a girl it became a book on the problems women face.
Props to Bhagat for trying to take on a multitude of issues the constant undermining of a
womans success, women being forced to choose between work and home, the obsession over

fair skin all very relevant. These sections are perhaps the redeeming bits the reason several
readers have stepped up to say they relate to Radhikas story. But the problem is, Bhagat, by
trying to include the voice of each of the hundred women he interviewed, ends up with
cacophony. All the evils of the world are mounted on the shoulders of the mother she is
obsessed about marriage, ashamed of her daughters skin colour, and is the voice of a society that
constantly undermines a womans success. Radhikas sister gets an equally raw deal: she is selfcentred, cares only about her looks, and has no life outside her marriage.
Its not just the women Bhagat is unkind to. Radhikas lovers sound like cardboard cut-outs that
exist just to make Radhikas life difficult. One man asks her to choose kids over career, the other
asks her to choose career over kids. They are perfect inverted mirror images of each other.
Bhagat tries too hard to evoke sympathy and ends up having the opposite effect: See, see! This
is what women face! Care about this! Now!!! It feels like youre being hit on the head with a
rubber hammer emblazoned with the words WOMENS PROBLEMS underlined four times.
But there is a golden core. It is essentially the story of one womans battle against insecurity, an
insecurity that stems from growing up in an unequal society. Only when Radhika gives up her
critical inner-voice her mini me that constantly tells her what a woman should or should not
do does she find happiness. Though this message is worthy, you will have to peel away layers of
nonsense to get to it. Radhika spends far too much time judging other women and grovelling for
attention and validation from her lovers and male bosses. At one point, she offers to quit her job
to assuage her boyfriends ego.I wanted him. I was ready to be his girl, just the way he wanted
me to be, she says. She stalks her exes with the tenacity with which Tamil heroes stalk heroines.
Then, after her moment of self-actualisation, she goes on a round-the-world trip and achieves a
zen-like state of calm. But what does Radhika then do? She has a romantic coffee date with the
humanist not feminist Brijesh Gulati she rejected two months ago. If Bhagat was indeed trying
to write a feminist book, is this the solution he offers? Date a humanist?
Radhika lives in a world populated entirely by men, except for her mother and sister. Other
female characters are a secretary or a flight attendant. At no point do these characters have a
meaningful conversation about anything. Just as responsible, feminist men are absent from
Bhagats world, so are responsible, feminist women.
One Indian Girl was supposed to be representative of the modern Indian woman. Instead, it is
about an immensely unlikeable woman who has a lifestyle that can best be described as
aspirational. At least the title was right. The book is literally about one Indian girl.