11 min read ⌚
Chetan Bhagat is back at it again.
And this time he’s writing from the perspective of a girl.
Who Should Read “One Indian Girl”? And Why?
One Indian Girl is dedicated “to all Indian girls, especially the ones who dare to dream and live life on their own terms.”
And these are the women who should read this enticing Bhagat novel.
Chetan Bhagat Biography
Chetan Bhagat is an Indian writer, motivational speaker, and screenwriter, “the biggest selling English language novelist in India’s history.”
One of the “100 Most Influential People in the World” according to Time magazine, Bhagat has so far published ten books, eight of which are bestselling novels, almost each of them adapted for the big screen.
Find out more at http://www.chetanbhagat.com/
One Indian Girl is the story of Radhika Mehta, a vice president in the Distressed Debt Group at Goldman Sachs in London. She… but then again, let us allow her to introduce herself – as well as the main premise of the book:
Hi, I am Radhika Mehta and I am getting married this week. I am twenty-seven years old. I grew up in Delhi. I now work in London, at Goldman Sachs, an investment bank. I am a vice president in the Distressed Debt Group. Thank you for reading my story. However, let me warn you. You may not like me too much. One, I make a lot of money. Two, I have an opinion on everything. Three, I’ve had sex. Now if I was a guy you would be okay with all of this. But since I am a girl these three things don’t really make me too likable, do they?
Well, Radhika, they probably would have made you at least somewhat likable in the US or most of the countries in the Western hemisphere.
In India, however, feminism and premarital sex are frowned upon.
So, to see if you are likable or not, we’ll have to fill out the details.
A good place to note that most of Radhika’s story is told in three extended flashbacks framed between a prologue and a tentative epilogue.
Let’s see what we can make out of them.
It’s 3 in the morning, and Radhika Mehta is tossing and turning in her bed for at least the last two hours. She is about to get married in no less than fifteen hours.
“We have over 200 guests in the hotel,” she informs us, “here to attend my grand destination wedding in Goa. I brought them here. Everyone is excited. After all, it is the first destination wedding in the Mehta family.”
However, the only thing on Radhika’s mind is how to get out of some undisclosed mess, because, as she tells us, she is in a situation where she doesn’t have the slightest clue what exactly is going on.
It’s quite simple, though – which doesn’t mean that the solution for the chaos is as straightforward.
Namely, Radhika is about to get married to Brijesh Gulati, an intelligent and caring person who works at Facebook in San Francisco and for whom Radhika has some fond feelings.
Well, what’s the problem, you ask?
To start with, it’s Debashish “Debu” Sen who has just messaged her – after more than three years! – a heartfelt apology ribboned with an expression of love: “For the past few months I have been thinking of you constantly. Only had the courage to text you now. I made the biggest mistake. I didn’t value you. I love you.”
And if that isn’t enough, Debu has landed in Goa and wants to speak with her. Finally, they arrange a meeting.
Radhika is furious and starts insulting him for coming to India and infiltrating the bhajan ceremony at the wedding reception. “Don’t you remember the days in New York?” Debu asks her later. “We had issues, yes, but how can you forget all the happy memories?”
“No, Debu, I have forgotten nothing,” replies Radhika with a soft voice.
New York: Four Years Earlier
And we move across the globe to New York, where the bulk of the book is happening.
Also, we move back in time.
Apparently, Radhika Mehta is “a bit of a nerd.” She and her sister, Aditi – just a year older than her – went to school together in Delhi at Springdales, Pusa Road.
As she later found out, her parents had hoped that she would be a boy. And most probably they tried making Radhika and Aditi a brother on two more occasions – but their mother aborted twice because in both cases they would have gotten a third sister.
Radhika’s intelligence and work discipline eventually got her to Goldman Sachs, New York, where one evening, her batchmate from IIMA, Avinash, introduces her to the Debu, the so-called “dreamer-philosopher” of the group.
However, for a dreamer philosopher – with a beard and an uncombed hair – Debu has a pretty mundane job, working for an advertising agency on Madison Avenue, BBDO.
Apparently, the most creative thing he could find.
Anyway, Radhika learns that he is just one batch senior to her and holds a master’s degree from the very same school.
Also, that he is not only handsome, but also smart and intelligent. And that she really wants him. Like, really, really wants him.
Of course that’s a euphemistic cue for Radhika’s first sexual experience, which leads to a revelatory moment: “Why don’t people do this all the time?” Radhika thinks to herself while Debus is pleasuring her. “Wow, why didn’t anyone tell me sex feels so damn good?”
Radhika and Debu start dating and eventually even living together. Unfortunately, not everything is going smooth and well, mostly because of Radhika’s hectic working schedule.
Things turn from bad to worse when Radhika decides that she wants to plan a future together with Debu and starts implicitly pressuring him into marriage.
And they escalate after Radhika gets a bonus of 150,000 dollars (70-lakh rupees), which, in itself, is twice Debu’s salary. Could she go on living with someone who earns so little? Especially when he is not that happy with Radhika’s achievements, reacting to her bonus with the underwhelming “these banks!”
In fact, Debu seems even less interested in going out with Radhika. He would rather have a simple housewife for a partner, than a strong, independent woman who earns so much than him and is never around.
They separate, and the separation gets Radhika into thinking whether she was right to prioritize her job to Debu.
So, she tries to amends.
A month after the separation, after having a few glasses of wine, she decides to quit her job: “No deal or company or job was worth it. I only enjoyed all this when I had Debu. I needed love.”
She goes instantly to Tiffany and buys a wedding ring worth 2,000 dollars.
Then, she heads off to Brooklyn Heights, where Debu has in the meantime moved back into with his old roommates. She finds the keys of the apartment under the potted plant outside the flat and enters Debu’s room.
She wants to “give him a complete surprise [coming] with news of a resignation, a bouquet of roses and a ring.” Instead, she is the one who ends up surprised:
I gently opened the door. I just wanted to slip into bed with him. A tiny bedside lamp was switched on. It took me a second to process what I saw: Debu and a white girl lay there naked, intertwined with one another. I couldn’t breathe. In hindsight, I realize I should have shut the door and dashed out. Instead, I froze.
Hong Kong: Two Years Earlier
So, it’s time for a transfer to the Goldman Sachs offices in Hong Kong.
“A compact, brightly lit and buzzing” city of seven million inhabitants, Hong Kong overwhelms Radhika upon arrival “with its insomnia and beehive activity.”
However, what really leaves her without words is her boss, Neel Gupta, who, though 20 years older than her, is incredibly smart and charming. In fact, at forty-five, he is already a senior partner at Goldman Sachs!
The thing is Neel Gupta is also pretty smitten with Radhika especially after she manages to land a big deal at the Philippines.
His feelings grow deeper and become pretty apparent when he sends her 26 roses for her 26th birthday. And in the 26th chapter of the book, at the beaches of the Pangulasian Island Resort at the Philippines, just after the deal-closing celebration dinner soaked in quite a few drinks, this happens:
We looked at each other and smiled. I don’t know why, call it girl intuition or whatever, I felt like something was going to happen. I could have moved away. But I didn’t. Maybe because I wanted it to happen. He leaned forward. He placed his lips on mine. They felt as warm and gentle as the water on my ankles. I closed my eyes. My hands moved halfway to stop him but lost the resolve to do so as the kiss felt amazing. He kissed me long and deep as dozens of waves broke and touched the soles of my feet. He lifted his arm to draw me closer. Neel Gupta, partner, two decades older and my boss’s boss, held me tight and kissed me. This was not supposed to feel good. But never had a kiss felt this good. I didn’t protest. Maybe I should have. But when something feels so right it is hard to do so. I placed my palm on his face. The face I had seen every day for so many months, but never touched. I felt connected to him. I felt like the entire island existed only for this one reason, our kiss.
And you know what happens next. If you’re wondering how does this experience compares to Debu, don’t: “this was a completely new level of sensation and pleasure,” informs us Radhika. “If Debu was French fries, this was a gourmet six-course meal. If Debu was beer, this was champagne. If Debu was a boat, this was a luxury cruise.”
Unfortunately, there’s a problem lurking beneath all of this – you know, other than that of having sex with your boss who is twice your age.
You’ve guessed it:
Neel Gupta is married with kids.
But this doesn’t stop Radhika and Neel taking a few more business trips together and using each of them to the max – if you know what we mean.
It would take Radhika a year before realizing that Neel is not the man for her. The sudden revelation occurs to her during a discussion about motherhood.
When she says that she wants to have children and be a good mother, Neel laughs off “this mundane stuff” and tells her that she is getting carried away. “I never thought of you as the maternal type,” he tells her. “I don’t know if you were even meant to be a mother.”
A few days later, a letter of resignation signed by Radhika Mehta reaches Neel.
“Leave me if you have to,” says Neel to her. “Don’t quit the firm… You can take a transfer to another office. New York. London. Wherever.’
Well, “wherever” and “New York” are not going to work for Radhika: she is obviously running out of places due to her “relationship wrecks.”
So, London it is!
London: One Year Earlier
While Radhika is working in London, her mother discovers WhatsApp.
And you know what that means: constant bugging. And if you are an Indian, there’s one more thing coming you’ve probably already guessed: shaadi.com, the most famous matrimonial online service for Indians.
One day, Radhika succumbs to the pressure and decides to look through some profiles on the website – through her own profile set by none other than her mother.
She eventually connects with the Brijesh Gulati from the Prologue. They go out once, Radhika’s family likes him, and, well, you know where this all leads to: Radhika sighs a “yes.” “Maybe not an ‘oh my God wow’ type yes, but at least ‘there’s no reason to say no’ kind of yes.”
And that’s how we get back to the present and the $150,000-wedding at the Marriott Hotel in Goa.
One Indian Girl Epilogue
We left you there with Debu apologizing and begging Radhika to come back to him.
Complicated already, sure, but, wait, it gets even more complicated: Neel also contacts Radhika out of the blue and, out of the bluer (is that even an expression?) he too shows up at her wedding in Goa!
Apparently, he regrets leaving Radhika as well and to prove this, he has brought his divorce papers with him.
“My beautiful Indian princess,” he says to her after a brief explanation, “rather I should say smart, analytically sound and extremely beautiful Indian princess, will you marry me?”
Still wondering what kind of mess Radhika was talking about in the Prologue?
To quote a film we really like – this one – “in chess, it’s called Zugzwang. When the only viable move – is not to move.”
And Radhika decides not to.
She calls both Debu and Neel the morning before the wedding and at 5:28 AM, at a coffee shop, she relates to them her feelings:
I am not coming with you, or with you. There are fundamental things about both of you that won’t change. Debu, you say you will be supportive, but the fact that you couldn’t handle even a bit of my success means it’s an intrinsic part of you. You can’t change that. And I plan to be a lot more successful than what you saw. So, sorry, no […] And Neel, you are amazing, no doubt. The chartered plane, tempting, of course. Now with the divorce and everything I know you love me too. But you know what, you love only half of me. My other half is Kusum, the woman you left. You want a party girl. Someone young, who allows you to cling on to your youth. The same youth you work so hard in the gym for. Well, I won’t be this young girl forever. I don’t know what Neel Gupta will do with me then. He likes Radhika, his young vice president, but will he like Radhika, the diaper-changing wife and mom?
Just two minutes after this, as Neel and Debu leave, Brijesh enters the coffee shop. And Radhika – boy, she’s on a roll! – tells him that she wants to cancel the wedding as well.
For the next few months, Radhika travels around the world to find out what she really likes. Eventually, she contacts Brijesh while on a route to San Francisco.
The two meet for a coffee and reconnect.
“Brijesh, would you like to come to the Arijit Singh concert with me?” Radhika asks.
He says yes.
And then they start laughing.
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“One Indian Girl PDF Summary Quotes”Women lie about their feelings all the time. It’s amazing how easily it comes to us. Click To Tweet If it is too good to be true, it probably is too good to be true. Click To Tweet Some people are good at making decisions. I am not one of them. Click To Tweet This is how we girls are. At times we want to be wanted, even when we deny it. Click To Tweet If God hired an architect to design heaven, this was how it would be done. Click To Tweet
Our Critical Review
One Indian Girl is a romantic comedy with both chick-lit and feminist undertones, which reads as if originally written to be instantly adapted for the big screen. In fact, we predict that very soon it will be (as all of Bhagat books have been).
We mean, four cities, three men, one independent woman, first sexual experience, a passionate love affair with an older man, an arranged marriage gone haywire, lots and lots of humor – this is obviously a book which checks all the boxes!
The best part: it’s not dull for a second!