Chetan Bhagat’s ‘One Indian Girl’ is a handbook for likeable feminists

Chetan Bhagat writes a strong female protagonist, but does she need to be nice?

Written by Pooja Pillai | Updated: October 14, 2016 4:51 pm
The protagonist of this book is Radhika Mehta. She is a high-earning, successful investment banker who is opinionated, independent and not a virgin. She is also a feminist. The protagonist of this book is Radhika Mehta. She is a high-earning, successful investment banker who is opinionated, independent and not a virgin. She is also a feminist.

Book Name- One Indian Girl
Author- Chetan Bhagat
Publisher- Rupa
Pages- 280
Price- 176

A few chapters into One Indian Girl, I couldn’t help but wonder if one should see Chetan Bhagat’s new novel as an apology. After all, he did inflict Half Girlfriend, with its undeniable sexism and half-baked female lead, on us. Would we be willing to forgive and forget, because, instead of a hero looking for professional and romantic fulfillment, Bhagat’s new novel has a heroine who is looking for the same?

WATCH VIDEO | Chetan Bhagat Chats About His New Book One Indian Girl

The protagonist of this book is Radhika Mehta. She is a high-earning, successful investment banker who is opinionated, independent and not a virgin. She is also a feminist, who is quick to tell her mother off for looking at her professional success as a hindrance on the road to marital bliss. She is unafraid to ask for what she wants in bed and, when the time comes, is able to pay for her own fancy destination wedding in Goa. Clearly, Bhagat’s first ever female narrator is a strong, female character that one can root for.

But you can’t help spot the problems. Why are all the women in the book set up in opposition to each other? Her mother nags her to get married, her sister is obsessed with appearances, but Radhika never rises above her contempt for them.

 

Bhagat gets some things right. He captures perfectly the discomfort a modern woman might feel when she’s expected to act like a shy, obedient dulhan. When relatives flock to see the bride-to-be, she wryly remarks: “The monkey was out of the cage and there was a free sighting in the lobby.” She says all the right things about how giving women the right to choose is not enough — they need to have the right to choose the things they want, not what men want.

WATCH VIDEO: Being Chetan Bhagat

But those looking to award Bhagat the feminist brownie points he is angling for will have to wait a while. He may have interviewed over a hundred girls and women, read Naomi Wolf’s The Beauty Myth (he tosses a mention into a scene), and even got his body hair waxed in an effort to unravel the mysteries of the female mind, but all that is undone by this little exchange: “‘If their son can do this, why can’t the bahu?’ he said. ‘Now that is feminism,’ I said and high-fived him. ‘Everything doesn’t need hi-fi labels like feminism. Just logic.’”

Radhika not just suffers foolish logic but also simpers when her husband-to-be says: “I don’t think anyone has to specifically call himself or herself a feminist. If you are a fair person and want equal opportunities for all, that’s a start.” Why would an intelligent feminist swallow such nonsense?

WATCH VIDEO | Chetan Bhagat On Surgical Strikes & Pakistani Artistes Ban Controversy

The answer to that, dear reader, lies in the Likeable Feminist persona that Radhika is meant to represent. If Radhika had launched into an explanation of why the label “feminist” is so important, she would have come across as a scold launching an attack on a nice man who is simply being reasonable. She can be opinionated and sexually active, but a feminist still needs to be nice and that is something Bhagat won’t let us forget.

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  1. M
    motiprava sahoo
    Jun 3, 2017 at 3:25 pm
    Chetan sir am a great fan of urs..I hve read all of ur buks...ur way. Of exprsing those felngs of every teen is great. I just lve all urs buks sir. And eagerly waiting fr ur next novel sir
    Reply
  2. N
    Neel
    May 24, 2017 at 12:50 am
    Simply Bakwas C grade story.... English version of Manohar kahaniya.... One of the Worst boring vulgar book of the year. Author should try writing for adult movie. Waste of time even to read few pages u feel like throw up.... story and narration sucks..
    Reply
  3. D
    Divya
    Feb 6, 2017 at 6:37 pm
    Loved the book in parts. But the author could have given it a more clear ending
    Reply
  4. D
    dhimanta
    Nov 1, 2016 at 9:32 am
    one indian girl seems to be the worst creation of Bhagat...your days as a writer is over my friend..
    Reply
  5. N
    Nabina khanal
    Dec 1, 2016 at 5:09 am
    This book made me realize my inner self. At sometime i could connect to radhika while at other time i hated her being so. great Job Mr.Bhagat.lt;br/gt;With love from Nepal ( loved One indian Girl)
    Reply
  6. V
    vivek
    Oct 10, 2016 at 5:13 am
    Lol. I wouldn't read this even if i am paid to read. Its high time chetan bhagat realized that he should stop writing altogether or write something sensible.
    Reply
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