Half Girlfriend

Rating: 3.5/5

Title: Half Girlfriend
Author: Chetan Bhagat
Genre: Fiction, Romance
Pages: 268
Publisher: Rupa Publication India
ISBN-13: 9788129135728

I missed out on reading Revolution 2020, Chetan Bhagat's previous book. So, I decided to preorder this one and as predicted, it was at my doorstep on the 1st of October, delivered by the ever efficient, Flipkart. Moving on from my ramblings, on to the summary.

The story begins with Chetan Bhagat narrating about a visit he makes to Patna where he meets, Madhav, a forlorn lover who urges the author to read what looks like journals of his dead girlfriend (or half girlfriend, as he describes her). Our author is intrigued and asks Madhav to narrate his love story. Riya, the girl in question, is from a rich and flamboyant background who joins college, where she meets Madhav, whose English in nowhere near perfect due to his educational background. Their common love for basketball brings them closer but since Riya wants nothing more than friendship (and Madhav clearly wanted more), she agrees to be his half girlfriend. But due to a misunderstanding, they part ways and Riya leaves college to get married while Madhav is left alone with her sweet reminisces. On returning to his village after completing his education, Madhav takes over the school that their family had been running for the local children. As fate would have it,  Madhav meets Riya again and learns that she has abandoned both her husband and home and is now working and living alone. They continue being friends and when Madhav's school gets selected for a funding from the Microsoft Foundation, Riya helps him to prepare a speech that he has to deliver in front of Bill Gates who would be personally visiting. Although Riya gauges that Madhav continues to like her, she herself doesn't display any other emotion other than friendship. When Madhav successfully gives a speech on the D-Day and his school is approved for funding, he just wants to share his happiness with one person, but Riya is nowhere to be found. All he gets is a letter left behind by Riya saying that she has been ill for some time now and since she doesn't have much time, she wants to go away, as far as possible from everyone she knows, and die in peace.

Madhav is heart broken. He finds her journals but can't bring himself to read it. And as Chetan Bhagat was Riya's favorite author, he brings those to him. But when the author reads the entire lot, or whatever was legible, he finds a twist in Madhav's love story. Apparently, Riya was never sick and wanted to get away from Madhav because she thought she was no good for him and knew that unless she disappears, he would never let her go. So, she's alive after all and when Madhav learns this, he is enraged at first but then decides to go look for her. Whether or not he is successful in finding her and do they get together at the end, you readers will have to find out. No spoilers here!

Although I like Chetan's narrations, this one in particular stood out. It is simple and conversational. Some of the slangs are really funny. The flow of the story is beautifully steady which is great and that is why we love Chetan Bhagat, is it not? He is a great story teller! The story, according to me, is engaging except for a couple of things. First, the fact that Madhav doesn't speak good English is unduly stressed in the story. I cannot fathom why. If this was an effort by the author to string it with the English speech that Madhav had to make, then it was unnecessary. It is even mentioned in the summary behind the book, which is confusing because it isn't vital to the story. Second, the ending didn't seem realistic enough (read Bollywood!) and that comes from someone who has been watching Bollywood since childhood. I mean, it is nice but I kind of expected something different than the usual, I guess.

When I finished the book, I wasn't completely satisfied because, as said earlier, it felt as if I had just finished watching a movie. Instantly, a thought cropped up. Is Chetan Bhagat now writing only for Bollywood? All his books (except Revolution 2020) have been made into movies now. Agreed, there's no better way to spin money, but I just hope that we don't lose a sincere writer in the process.

So, my verdict is that Half Girlfriend makes a nice, romantic read, especially for young lovers. And for all the romcom fanatics out there, you too should definitely try this book!


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