THE 3 MISTAKES OF MY LIFE by CHETAN BHAGAT:A Book Review By Kevin Stoda
In the wake of two sets of events in India this past month, it is appropriate to review Chetan Bhagat's recent novel, The 3 Mistakes of My Life.
The first occasion in August 2008 that I am referring to was the rise of youthful and sometimes violent protest once again in Srinagar, with the greatest call in years for Jammu-Kashmir to separate from India. This renewed manifestation of protests has occurred in response to the June and July boycotts of Jammu-Kashmir by Hindu groups who were upset at the loss of a land grant which had been awarded to them under shady circumstances some months ago.
The second event in August 2008, which dealt with the same problems of intra-religious and intercultural infighting in India, was the rise of Hindu attacks on Christians in Orissa. In this case a Christian orphanage was attacked after a Maoist murder of a Hindu leader. The number of Hindu nationalists seeking to attack Christians, especially Christian deists, in recent years in that eastern India state have increased greatly in recent years--as the leaders of Orissan government refuse to intervene and truly protect religious minorities.
In the context of modern India, Chetan Bhagat has been reported to be the biggest-selling English-language novelist in India's history. Baghat is still in his 30s and lives much of the time outside of India. Bhagat's first three novels have been called block busters. Currently, both of his first two books, one night @ the call center and Five Point Someone, are being made into Bollywood films. For the non-Indian reader, the works of Bhagat provide great insight into 21st century experiences of Indian youth.
In 3 Mistakes, Bhagat takes on the topics of intra-religious hate and political warfare in India. He does it by handling very youthful genres of love, i.e. (a) one's first love, (b) love of mathematics, and (c) love of the game of cricket.
3 Mistakes is set mostly in Ahmadabad, Gujarat where the author spent many of his formative years. (Incidentally, it is also the home of Mohandas Gandhi's ashram.) This tale mostly takes place in the year leading up to the Great Gujarat Earthquake of 2001 and the period then leading up to the terrible ethnic communal riots and violence of the following year.
Five of the six main characters are of Hindu descent. (Only one is Muslim.) However, the first person narrator for most of the tale, Govind Patel, considers himself more of an atheist than religious. Similarly, one of his best friends and cricket coach, Ishaan (known as Ish), is not interested in religion either--and is even less interested in combining religion and politics.
This is a common theme of moderation and secularization among five of the six main characters' personalities and in some ways is the call of modern India--not just a call of its youth. Particularly, Ish is much more interested in promoting his youthful cricket prodigy, Ali, than he is in the world of nationalist politics, socialization, and education.
Only Ish and Govind's friend and business partner, Omi, is a fairly religious figure among the three closest friends in the novel. However, Omi's father, Mama, is interested in Hindu nationalism and promoting the status of Hindus in modern India.
Furthermore, Mama wants to be seen as leader in the Ahmadabad Hindu political scene and strives to increase his status throughout the novel. In short he is a Hindu nationalist temple priest with ambition.
The sixth of the six main characters in Bhagat's 3 Mistakes is Ish's sister, Vidya, whom Govind tutors in math and science throughout most of the novel.
LOVE OF CRICKET
India is a cricket crazy land. One of Bollywood's greatest blockbusters of the last decade, Lagan, was based on the game of cricket. In 3 Mistakes, cricket plays a central role as well.
First, cricket is a business. Govind, Ish and Omi open a cricket shop in the corner across from a Hindu temple run by Omi's family for generations. In this way, the three young men attempt to make a living without directly following in the path that their parents would like to have seen them go.
Ish is the number one fan of cricket among the three. The successes and failures of the national Indian cricket team constantly affect success in their sales of cricket equipment and cricket clients for training on the pitch. For example, after the Indian team makes a historic upset over the Australian team, not only does the country go bonkers over cricket, but the cricket business in Ahmadabad booms.