“Would you like to add this book?” he asked. I politely refused. He proceeded to bill the items in my cart. It was Dusshera eve. My shopping cart was overflowing with gifts for the festive season. I noticed the attractive POS (point of sale) display on every counter. The cover was quite pedestrian if you ask me, but the title had created quite a furore on social media. Why would an author willingly name his book such, I wondered. Or was this just another smart marketing gimmick? What if it was not? My chain of thoughts were interrupted by the cashier. Festivals were an expensive affair as confirmed by my billing total. On an impulse I tossed ‘Half Girlfriend’ as a last-minute purchase. The cashier smiled, and his cash register went ka ching!

I have no qualms in stating that this wasn’t the first time I was reading Chetan Bhagat. Having interacted with him once, my thoughts have been pretty neutral about his ‘literary expertise’. I am not a fan, neither am I the one hunting him down with a grammar bible. Truth be told, our worlds don’t collide, thus neither does our existence matter to the other. On that democratic note, I began his latest.

The back cover introduced me to Madhav and Riya in a very kindergarten sing-song manner. The dedication on the third page told me that this book was meant for ‘rural India’ and the ‘non-English types’. Clearly, I was way out of the book’s league. You see, I talk (in) English, I walk (in) English and I even think in the same darn language. This was going to be challenging. However, it was a fair warning. So, I took off my Versace judgement glasses and decided I was going to treat this book like the common fare it was. And somewhere in Bihar, I could picture the ladies of the household in their long drawn ghoonghats reading in the light of the forlorn oil lamp. Life changing, I tell you.

I began the Three Act play, solemnly. Few places made me chuckle, some places made me yawn. Most of the time I felt like Dhritarashtra, and I kept muttering ‘Yeh kya ho raha hai?’ Mythology has strange effects. At some point I went into a dream sequence about Ardhanarishvara, the half man, half woman. Well, getting into the nuances of the book is not why I am writing this. I am here to tell you why the book is titled so. I know what you are thinking. It is because the girl who is a friend is missing for half the book! Maybe. However, the alternative theory I have is that she does not have her head on her shoulders, literally!

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Well, if she did, the story would wind up earlier.

And if the boy had only taken the trouble to read, what he so willingly gave up, the story would not have been written at all!

Logic tells me this. If I ever come across a treasure chest that belonged to someone I deeply cared about, I’d go through it. Yes, even if the contents were in Swahili, a language that I can’t speak to save my life. I’d be too darn inquisitive. Also, if I want something in life, I won’t play the ‘abla nari’ card, coz I don’t own it. I would plot, plan and murder to get what I want. I would have definitely tried, at least once. But then again, I am thinking all of this in English. Perhaps, in Hindi, the laaj ka ghoonghat comes in the way. I don’t know because I wear jeans most of the time, much to the disapproval of Yesu’s das

Don’t get me wrong. I am not complaining, for I got into this with my eyes wide open. I was then down with conjunctivitis, though that is besides the point. I am not talking about the crass dialogue in the book. I am not questioning Madhav’s ever-changing language skills. I am not intrigued by Riya’s flip-flop attitude. I am not even referring to the convenient characters, mundane plot points or in-house branding exercise. I swear, I wasn’t thinking of scenes ripped off from movies either. I was simply wondering if maybe you could write, someday, for us English types, you know. It would be nice. We can then talk, as equals. I can almost see us discussing, animatedly, about how a question is always ‘asked’ and not ‘said’, among other thingsDo you? The ball is in your basketball court, now.

I hear this is to be a movie. Could be another block buster, who knows? Outsourced screenplay writers have worked for you in recent times. Movies these days, anyway, are all about the opening weekend. Then the following week they are on television. So, if you get lambasted for a regressive, rehashed 70’s saas-bahu drama, so what? Don’t quit. It will happen one day, as Madhav said.

One numerical book at a time. The English will have to pay for what they did to India. Bharat Mata ki Jai!

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