Chetan Bhagat is being much lashed out by critics for his new book , One Indian Girl. The book is about an Indian Girl, 25, who is a successful banker, works at Goldman Sachs in New York, has relationships and regular sex, makes envious amounts of money even by US Standards (next only to Data Scientists these days, haha). Sees herself as feminist (covert or overt doesn’t matter!), and more so when her mother starts pressurizing her to get married. To aggravate the situation, she has a more than eager, extremely beauty-conscious (who like her sister is not nerd type, not much interested in studies, and always waiting for her Prince to come, whatever way she manages to find him!) sister.
I know just that much, as I’ve not read the book. I’m commenting on the book just by watching some Chetan Bhagat One Indian Girl interviews and reviews.
Blame it on the Marketing
Writing a book is much effort, it in essence doesn’t entail writing, correcting the prose to an acceptable standard; it also requires marketing. Or ferocious marketing. You need to package a book, you see.
The marketing team for Mr. Bhagat, and Mr. Bhagat himself have decided to market the book as one all about Feminism. And that turned out to be the source of criticism. As it doesn’t seem to conform to what even most Indian Girls will see as Feminism in India.
But… hold on for a second… the marketing ploy is good; as his huge and increasing fan base of mostly young men and women, will surely buy this book. And will not be much bothered by small inconsistencies wrt characterizations, such as, why nerd type, always studying girls will never be inclined to look good. Or for that matter, Radhika’s age to be a successful banker. If Radhika is a banker, which primarily is a client relationship selling job, that too at Goldman Sachs, then why will she see herself somewhat less of an intelligent, if she has to wax her legs. Men who want to look dapper in such jobs do wax, manicure, do forehead, cheeks and shave their faces. Everyone likes to be good, more so if you want to impress the person in front of you, with selling just being a duty.
The book seems to be for Practicing and Non-Practicing Feminists Like Radhika. What does this mean? This means that the author here has a certain imagery of a person who’s a card holder Feminist. That’s someone having some sort of misandry (dislike for men) and as a consequence becoming a Feminist. If through Radhika, he wants to push forward his own brand of feminism, which’s certainly not like some Card holder Feminist; then the World can have Malism on the other end of Feminism. Men who feel misogyny, and as a consequence are card-holders(Have I coined a new concept here!… I don’t think misogyny is Opposite of Feminism, as it’s like seeing just face of the coin).
Through Radhika, I think, the author wants to distance himself from feminism, and hence is talking about a person who’s like majority of young men or women in any part of India (his book is for Indians, That’s why India). From Radhika’s characterization, it appears that the book is for those who want to study in India’s premier Educational Institutions, have a prestigious job complemented by a heavy pay check or if not a job, are considered successful. If I understood the characterization to a decent degree, then the book will again be a best-seller, as even on the “Regular Sex” front, majority of young men and women may be divided into Practicing and Non-practicing Believers. That’s even if they may not practice it before marriage, for any reason, they can still be called believers (that’s it somewhere looms in their minds majority of the time).
Hence, rather than saying the book shares Chetan Bhagat’s brand of Feminism, or Chetan Bhagat talking about Feminism, which is a tall claim to make based on what Feminism is (Feminism or the advocacy of women’s rights on the ground of the equality of the sexes), we can say Chetan Bhagat is talking about an Indian Girl who sees herself as feminist or who’s a feminist based on the Life she’s living or the situation she’s in.
It’s All about what you believe, your Right is!
Talking of equality of genders is a difficult topic to discuss. Equally difficult is to discuss what gender equality means.
As gender equality is nothing but how you in person believes what Your Right is!
Take for instance Radhika in Chetan Bhagat’s book. She works at one of the leading Global Investment Banks. At times, when she’s too pissed off by her work and pressured by exceeding sales targets, she might think from a purely gender inequality perspective. She might even think all she’s valued for is her looks and not her work. But at other times when she’s happy she might be appreciating the attention. In the same way, if everyday she is tagged as an exceptional banker, then she will feel betrayed and may raise her flag of feminism, the moment she is over-looked for the next promotion. Chetan Bhagat, rightly points out what equality is for a Corporate Banker or Business Woman or a professional, doesn’t equate to what it’s for majority of women in India and World.
For majority of women, who have benefited and are benefiting from the movement of Feminism, it’s to this day, the fight for basic human rights so that basic gender equality is met. In India right now, the feminism movement is busy helping a women get simplest of her human rights, such as supporting and help get legal backing to fight against domestic violence, her right to get money to feed her and the children in case her husband abandons her, or empowering her to have some voice in family etc.
Thus to conclude, Feminism right now in India is more or less restricted to helping poor, sometimes illiterate, sometimes helpless women get their basic gender and human rights. It has not reached to the levels, about which Mr. Bhagat is talking of wrt his book. Or he’s talking about something, which can be anything but Feminism. No one in India right now, who’s really working on ground for the advocacy of women’s rights on the ground of the equality of the sexes, is advocating as to why Women professionals in most Companies are ignored for the top role or promotion to a decision-making role. As it can also be a question of eligibility or suitability for the role.
Thus rather than Feminism we must say the Chetan Bhagat’s book is about a Girl, who sometimes feels like a feminist. At other times she doesn’t has to. It’s not that her definition of feminism is wrong, it’s 360 degrees different from how it’s understood in India and world over. Hence, lets leave aside Feminism, which is a real work aimed at advocating and fighting for women’s rights on the ground of the equality of the sexes for those who’re not getting even their basic rights. Getting sidelined for a top job in Company, being pressed by parents to marry are certainly not those topics, as men also face such situations.
One more thing, before concluding. Many a times, Top Business women such as Indira Nooyi, Sheryl Sandberg talk about feminism. Actually what they are talking about is not feminism, it’s more about balancing the Work-life-family responsibilities. Most of the times this balancing act becomes too difficult. But, they are not Feminist issues in true sense, as rather than gender, they happen because women are often caring individuals. Hence, they will not want to work at the cost of their families, especially the children. Hence when they are told by the partner, in-laws, friends that they are not that perfect on family front, they rightly feel the exhaustion. Hence rather than feminism, it’s more about discretion and taking decisions. The discretion while choosing a partner, delegating home duties and children responsibilities to the partner as well, putting her views clearly, putting her priorities clearly and having some coordination to get results. Feminism, will not help her.
I will try to read this book.