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2 States

Lit Bits from the Editor

Forget countries and religions. There are still families who have catastrophic reactions to loved ones who cut across clans, caste, and state borders. While working on the cross-cultural special feature, I spent my free time nose-deep in Chetan Bhagat’s new book, 2 States: the story of my marriage¹.

Simple, funny, and perfectly raw, there is something in Bhagat’s dialogue to which every South Asian reader can say, “That sounds familiar!”

A few of my favorites:


“Ananya, you don’t get it. We have decided to get married. Our parents haven’t approved—yet,” I reminded her.

“C’mon, mine are a bit conservative. But we are their overachieving children, the ultimate middle-class fantasy kids. Why would they have an issue?”

“Because they are parents. From biscuits to brides, if there is anything their children really want, parents have a problem,” I said. “They’d have a problem with anyone I choose. And you are South Indian, which doesn’t help at all. OK, it’s not as bad as marrying someone from another religion. But pretty close.”

“But I also aced my college. I have an MBA from IIMA and work for HLL. And sorry to brag, but I am kind of pretty.”

“Irrelevant. You are Tamilian. I am Punjabi.”


“Ok, love you. Bye,” she ended the call.

I came back to the dining table. Out of guilt, I picked up a few bhindis and started wiping them with a wet cloth.

“Madrasi girl?”

“Ananya,” I said.

“Stay away from her. They brainwash, these people.”

“Mom, I like her. In fact, I love her.”

“See, I told you. They trap you,” my mother declared.

“Why would they need to trap anyone?”

“They like North Indian men.”

“Why? What’s so special about North Indian men?”

“North Indians are fairer. The Tamilians have a complex.”

“A complexion complex?” I chuckled.

“Yes, huge,” my mother said. … “I can show you Punjabi girls fair as milk,” she said, her volume louder than the TV… “Actually, I have a girl in mind. You have seen Pammi aunty’s daughter?…You should meet her.”

“I don’t want to meet anyone.”

“Only once.”

“What’s so special about her?”

“They have six petrol pumps.”

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2 Responses to 2 States

  1. Nita March 21, 2010 at 3:20 pm #

    India is full of contradictions. On one hand, Indians by nature can be so patriotic and nationalist, especially in defense of India towards those of OTHER nationalities.

    But within India, regionalism is rampant. Despite it’s typical Bollywood flavour, ‘Chake De India’ was a good example of this, as is the current politics surrounding the IPL cricket teams!

    As the final quote you chose shows – we must learn to move beyond the safeties of our states, countries, religions and learn to love everyone.

  2. nitesh March 21, 2010 at 7:48 pm #

    it is so crazy how so many parents are still obsessed with the milky fair complexion, every time i go to india all i hear about is the ‘fair’ girls — 60+ years later, we are still bowing to the white man !

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