Name: Revolution 2020
Author: Chetan Bhagat
Publication Date: 2011
Genre: Realistic Fiction
Plot Summary: Set in Varansi, India, the book follows two childhood friends separated by their destiny and connected by the girl they both love. Gopal, who grows up in extreme poverty, aspires to become rich and in the process joins the System. Raghav, whom life has been kinder to, aspires to revolutionize India and fight corruption. Both are in love with Aarti, who becomes the last remaining tie between the two men as they grow older. The book follows their stories and the choices that shape their lives.
This book doesn’t have complicated metaphors or fancy expressions; it’s a simple story told from the points of view of simple people, which makes it very realistic. The characters are very flawed and human that I could almost swear that I’ve met similar people in real life before. The most interesting part of the plot was that it was told primarily from Gopal’s point of view. It’s been a while since I’ve read a story written from an anti-hero’s point of view.
Gopal: A poor boy from Varansi who fails his engineering entrance exam. Even after his sickly father indebts himself to send him to a coaching school in Kota, he fails his exam again. His father dies of a broken heart and leaves him behind. Gopal soon realizes that if he wants to survive the harsh realities of his city, then he has to join the System and turn a blind eye to its corrupt methods. He’s madly in love with Aarti and ends up in an affair with her. He later gives her up in an unexpected plot-twist and gets her back with Raghav without their knowledge.
Chetan Bhagat does not judge his characters; he simply presents them as they are and leaves it up to the reader to determine what he/she thinks of them. The question that he asks us at the end of the book is: Is Gopal a good person? I don’t know. Some characters are really hard to judge. In any other situation, I would have defended Gopal because if he had lived in better circumstances then maybe he wouldn’t have turned out this way. However in this book, you have Raghav who stood by his ideals to the very end despite all the hardships that that caused him.
Even though Gopal was not strong enough to say no to easy riches, he still managed to redeem himself a little at the end of the book, which showed us he still had some good in him. It’s very desolate when you think about his life and how it all turned out for him at the end. I think the question that should be asked instead is: Do our redeeming qualities excuse our bad behaviors?
Aarati: I am not going to lie, it was easy to ignore all the cultural aspects that shaped Aarati’s personality and simply hate her. Throughout the story she keeps Gopal at an arm’s distance; far enough so she doesn’t have to commit to him but close enough so he can’t move on. Their scenes were really horrible to read. Gopal was so blinded by love that he couldn’t even see that she was using him to appease her insecurities and fill the gap that Raghav leaves when he gets immersed in his work. Gopal was right in saying: “She owned me.”
Falling in love is truly universal; it doesn’t matter what your culture, religion or language is, you’ll still feel elated when you’re with your loved one, still feel hurt when they push you away, and still readily turn a blind eye when they hurt you.
Raghav: Unlike Gopal, Raghav passes his Engineering entrance exam, excels in university, and graduates. However, his passion lies in writing and instead of joining a prestigious engineering company like everyone had anticipated, he joins a newspaper and dedicates his talent to exposing the corruption that governs Varansi. He loves Aarati but his love for India is greater and it puts a strain on their relationship. He believes that in 2020, a revolution against corruption and injustice will rise in India and so he starts a newsletter with the same name. His views bring him a lot of trouble but he holds on to them until the very end.
A lot of people criticized the fact that the book does not show us the actual revolution and ended in a very anticlimactic way. I thought it was a fitting end, because this is real life and sometimes it is anti-climactic. Sometimes, sacrifices go unnoticed and love and friendship die not with a bang, but slowly and quietly.
Did I love this book? Hmm…it was an enjoyable and light read. I am not obsessed with it but I didn’t hate it either.