WRITING STYLE: 3/5
ENTERTAINMENT QUOTIENT: 3.5/5
The dazzling lights, the boisterous crowd, excited family and friends and all the shenanigans brighten up the atmosphere of yet another big fat Indian wedding that entwines two families together. As everyone, from both the families, leaves no stone unturned to make sure that all the fun and frolic does not leave behind the necessary rituals and customs, the sisters-in-law wait patiently to steal the shoes of the groom as a part of the ‘juta churai’ ceremony that is typical of any North Indian wedding.
Just Graduate is set in the busy city of Agra that instantly stirs up images of the idyllic Taj and its breathtaking ambience, Namiti, like any other bridesmaid at her Didi’s wedding is all decked up and interacting with the guests. Minutes before the much awaited Jaimala ceremony, she takes up the responsibility of serving rasgullas when one of the guests begins to act fussy. He requests for a second bowl of rasgullas and ends up toppling it on his kurta while absentmindedly playing Candy Crush on his phone. This leads to an argument as well as the beginning of a friendship that Namiti has least expected. Introduced as Nikunj Kashyap by a relative, Nikku is instructed to help Namiti to prepare for her CAT exam.
Just Graduate is centred around Namiti who is still taking up her undergraduate courses and eventually wishes to pursue MBA is in for quite some shock and surprise. A friend request from Nikunj entails the saga of what is to be understood as the reality of modern love stories. The daily text exchanges and overused emoticons contain innumerable hidden emotions of young love that is full of promise and happily ill-informed of reality. Namiti is living a dream. She is deeply invested and highly possessive and insecure. But every move that Nikunj makes only reasserts sincere devotion. Will they be able to last despite the distance and absence of communication?
Just Graduate is audience specific and will be enjoyed by young girls in their final years at school, about to enter college or in college (hoping to enjoy the thrills of college without understanding the perils of higher education as a female student in a developing country). Though the story has several twists and turns, most of it is what the Indian audience is more or less familiar with. At times the romance may seem too cliched and cheesy. Told by the first-person narrator, the story is emotionally loaded and highly sensitive. The linear narrative that Bhatnagar maintains portrays the ups and downs but is unidirectional and never loses track of the ultimate aim of defining the trajectory of Namiti’s solo journey. The main focus remains on the development of the female protagonist both emotionally and professionally.
But as it is with matters of the heart, things are never easy. Amber enters into her life at a time when she most needs somebody by her side but at the same time is also learning how to be more self-reliant. Trading one’s life goals for any individual is always a bad choice and young adults can take several lessons from the story.
Bhatnagar has beautifully penned down the themes of failure, angst, and guilt without overdoing any of it. There is never for once an element of melodrama in the narrative which is reflective of an honest attempt that reaches out beyond the pages of the book. The language sees a frequent mix of colloquial Hindi words with English that adds a flavour of Delhi and Punjab. There is an entire song in Punjabi sung by Namiti at her college fest which is not translated into English but should not pose any difficulties for readers who are familiar with Bollywood numbers.
On the whole, Just Graduate is extremely easy to read. Bhatnagar effortlessly transports the readers back to their college days and the myriad impressions received on young minds just entering adulthood. But all humans are susceptible to mistakes and some things are inevitably learnt the hard way. The story is deeply inspirational and ends on a positive note with the protagonist striking a fruitful balance between work, family and married life. It is a comment on the idea that the same place that once broke a person completely can also help them heal and provide a reliable shelter at another time. Startlingly, people met in the real can act very different in the virtual world while people met virtually may be able to sustain strong relations. Like it or not, that is the imperishable condition of modern relationships and acquaintances.
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