Book Name- One Indian Girl
Author- Chetan Bhagat
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?
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.