Saturday, September 15, 2012

Two Fates - Judy Balan

Two Fates
ISBN: 9381626006
First Published In: 2011
A parody of “Two States", this book takes us through an unexpected and funny struggle of a couple to get a divorce.

Words-Wordy, Witty



Favorite Quote:
Sometimes we both cared more for the institute of marriage than we did for each other.

The review has a very high potential to be biased since I am a diligent follower of the author, Judy Balan’s blog. In fact, I came to know about the book through one of her posts; which is as well, for the cover of the book is nothing to write home about. Though I like minimalism/caricatures/ cartoons, this was borderline immature, and not in a good way. The designer seems to have lost interest midway through the rope-loop drawings. The fact that the book is still doing well “despite” a bad cover is a testimonial in itself.
I was however, surprised to find that most reviewers have mis-read(!) the book so thoroughly. Looks like Balan was too, as her post suggests

To summarise: The book is about an IIM-couple Deepika, a Tamilian and Rishabh, a Punjabi. Their families seem to have overcome their basic differences and are bonding well, much to the chagrin of the couple who want to have a divorce. Through London, Scotland, Chennai and Punjab, this incompatible-yet-wanting to be together couple stumble through relatives and various issues leading to a lot of situational comedies and emotional drama.

The book is primarily a parody of the Chetan Bhagat novel, Two States. I can imagine the author rolling her eyes at its corniness, and deciding to write Two Fates just to bring it out in sharp relief. Hence, as a parody, it is bang on. There are a lot of tongue-in-cheek references – to the original book as well to the author. For instance, Balan has coined the term “Gandhi complex” for the male protagonist, defining it as “a delusional condition that the future of the nation rests squarely on his shoulders”. – A not too subtle nod to the lofty ambitions of Bhagat himself.
The coup-de-grace was this exchange between Deepika and Rish:
“Winning is about strategy as much as it is about choice of words”, he gloated. 
“And that’s precisely why I think you’re not meant to be a writer”, I said. He remained silent. 
To me, writing was an art form. It was as much about beauty, form and style as it was about content. But Rish could never get that. For him, the story was everything. 
“If the story is good and the language simple, people will read”, he often said. 
But my point wasn’t about people reading as much as it was creating art. He argued that if I wanted to create art I should paint or write poetry, making me want to shoot him down for landing on my turf and lecturing me on what I was obviously better equipped to do. 
“I am going to make India read” He finally announced getting up from him seat with a dreamy look, as if he were the Mahatma and he had just made up him mind about ahimsa. 
“Drama King”, I said, “You’d do so much better in Bollywood”. 
“Yes maybe, I should make a movie about the fateful day I married you” he said, taking his seat again. 
“You could call it Two Idiots”, I grinned.
Interestingly, though Balan has also done the North-South stereotyping, she has fared much better. While Bhagat could barely conceal his annoyance and bias, Balan worked at creating stereotypes only to contradict them later – be it in repeatedly showing how “simple” South Indians are, only to be followed by the groom’s (south-Indian) mother happily accepting a Honda City, or to Rish and Deepika’s argument on who was more obnoxious - The balance seems equal, and hence, funny.

However, as a standalone book, it did have its drawbacks. The flow was unsure and shaky initially, which progressively improved with the story. The initial attempts at funny one-liners and interesting comebacks seemed a tad disjoint and broke the narration. Admittedly, no fault can be found with the language, which was witty, intelligent and slightly wordy with sporadic doses of swear words.  There were poetic lines like these:
Conning the audience was the aim and the client was the unsuspecting fat cow about to be milked like nobody’s business. So, come hell, high waters, weekends or lunch time – ours was not to reason why; ours was but to write clever headlines and lie.
Or funny ones like these:
Sure, we can’t give our lives for the country, perform open-heart surgery or help prevent global warming. But we know how to make people buy things they don’t want to buy. And that makes us way cooler than everyone else.
There are ample doses of dry humor in these pages, which are guaranteed to bring out a chuckle or two from the reader. Though it shows a lot of promise, for a non-TwoStates reader, I don’t think it is enough to hold fort.

The book is strongly recommended for those who have already read “Two States”. As a parody, it is remarkably funny. As a standalone book though, it fell a bit short. 


Kunal Chandra said...

You thoroughly seemed to have enjoyed this journey of reading Two states and then its anti-dote Two fates. I thought (through Five point someone and Three mistakes) that Chetan Bhagat was remarkable in what he had set out to achieve. Make people read, make people laugh, make some money, not end up like most IIT grads and masaage his ego of being known for who he is rather than what school he went too. The other books I have not read so cant comment. But through his other columns i can make out that he is more like Sarah Palin than Clinton, in that he thinks he is smart and deserves to be celebrated but often shoots himslef in the foot. This review sounds fascinating but I am not sure I am going to read anymore of these amatuerish novels (what a sad thing to say for someone my age and my desires of getting a chance in this world - but thats what it is). But very intelligent review. Keep it up.

Archana said...

Thanks Kunal!
I find Bhagat to be a fake - I think that line would summarise all the ramblings done this year. :) In contrast, this girl seemed funny, clean and honest. She didnt take herself too seriously and didnt let her characters do that either.

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