Dear Chetan Bhagat,
When I graduated from Enid Blyton, Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew to a little ‘serious’ books; your ‘One Night @ Call Centre’ was the first one I encountered ( laid my hands on Five Point Someone later). And when I finished it in one sitting (some 6 hours), I was excited. It was a stark contrast from what I was reading earlier. It was funny, true, hard hitting (sort of) and was so much in sync with the people- me, friends, life.
After that, I ended up reading all your books within a day of their release. But none of them has refreshed me like ‘2 States’. It is your best book ever (the worst do need any mention here). It was released before the Diwali of 2009, in mid October. I was travelling with a fever but still bought the book, hoping I would manage to read it. I could not. The next day, I took off from my work (part due to fever and part due to the urge of finishing the book). At the end of the day, I was sure the leave has been made worth.
Since then, I have read this book some 50 times- on bed, in bus, on mobile, on commode, among relatives, during boring functions; almost everywhere. Without ever been to Chennai (or even near to that kind of culture, I mean the southern part of India); I formed an image of the city, the people, the places. Some landmarks which are a part of this story have stayed with me till date. The characters are still fresh. Even if this is a fictional story; I can portray how you and Anushka Ma’am fought for your love in this city.
And recently, I got a chance to visit Chennai and stayed there for two days. I might have read, written, heard and watched a lot about this place in text books, Wikipedia, newspapers and magazines but your detailed depiction in that book was the basis of my assumption about the place. And I will say I am very lucky to pass through almost every landmark of your story. I never tried to do that. I used auto for local conveyance and the guy could have taken me from anywhere. Pure co-incidence that was but I think it was in that way that culmination would have been over.
I stayed in Tenyampet which was very, very near to T.Nagar. My mother went for saaree shopping and there I saw the grand Ratna Store. Immediately, I recalled you writing- how they even keep track of inventory and Chitra aunty watching Krish and Ananya there and fuming. I crossed Amethyst and Raintree and imagined Krish and Ananya seeking few moments of loneliness and relief from the relatives. On our way to Mahabalipuram, I saw Fisherman’s Cove from the distance- the place where Krish wooed his to be mother-in-law. The East Coast Road looked marvellous and the blue sea running parallel looked majestic.
About the people, as you said, they were a far cry from the bullies of Delhi. Comparatively shorter in height, everyone in Dhoti and fairness was a rarity- you can’t go for malls there to ‘enjoy’ as it is being done in National Capital.
Just because of reading so much about Chennai in that book, the city felt safe. Although I knew nothing about their language; I was amazed that everything went so easily. You said you want to change India by your writing; I sure have an influence of your most amazing book hugely.
You have no idea how delighted I was when I saw that 2 States will soon be a movie. I will once again re-live that book, the place and the feeling. Arjun Kapoor and Alia Bhatt sure look an amazing couple (I would have preferred Ranbeer Kapoor and Parineeti Chopra; hardly matters) and this will surely be a first day screening for me. I would love to see every mentioned place viz. Amethyst, Fisherman’s Cove in the flick. I hope you get it; I hope you retain the core of the book. I hope the film-makers its the book that deserve credit. Anyways, I can’t wait for that.
And yes, all the best for Kai Po Che.