“The Three Mistakes of my life”

Image Courtesy: http://www.chetanbhagat.com

I simply adore Chetan Bhagat! Of course, the way he narrates is a tad verbose and his lines aren’t exactly page-turning; not to mention countless expletives that adorn the pages of his bestselling books ‘Five Point Someone’ and ‘One Night @ The Call Center’. But there’s something that carves a niche for him in this big bad world of Indian writers in English. You end up relating a lot with his bumbling, endearing characters; like I did with the hero of Five Point Someone (my namesake, incidentally). Though Chetan talks of the IITs and Call Centers, he does so with a rather unique panache, his words decipherable even by the common man. I personally know lots of people who took to reading, thanks to Mr. Bhagat’s books. In fact, a friend speaks of how all his acquaintances at a certain IIT coaching institute in Kota, Rajasthan (yes, even the NERDIEST ones!!) singularly mentioned Bhagat’s books when questioned about their extra reading habits by a fastidious counselor! So, I wasn’t surprised when I saw the New York Times endorsement tagging Chetan “The biggest-selling English novelist in India’s history“, on the cover of his latest book ‘The 3 mistakes of my life’.

Buying “The Three Mistakes” was an impulsive decision. I’d learnt about Bhagat’s latest book from the papers and was planning to lay my hands on it someday. When I visited Modern Book House that fateful day to get a Data Structures text, I only felt too obliged to add 95 rupees to my bill seeing the book on display. It took me exactly two hours fifty six minutes to read through those 258-odd pages. Chetan takes a detour from familiar territory this time, quite literally, to cover the nuances of the colorful small-town India. The story’s about three young men from Ahmedabad: Govind, Ishaan, and Omi who start a cricket shop of sorts in early 2000. The story, as narrated by Govind, deals with their lives and their business. How they bear the brunt of their own lives; tiding past devastating earthquakes, religious intolerance, political maneuvering; even unacceptable love forms the crux of the plot.

Bhagat, most certainly has done his homework more meticulously than his previous works. His style has visibly improved, though the narrative-framework of FPS & ON@TCC is intact. He subtly makes a few politically-incorrect noises, albeit sensible ones through his characters. And Chetan does that immaculately without taking sides. (He has dedicated his book to the “country, which called me back“, mind you!) The pacing is just perfect. The romance track is also well laid out. I loved it better than Shyam-Priyanka one of ON@TCC. Even the sex is described in a better manner. 😉 The narrative is almost unfaltering, even gripping at times. Cricket which almost drives the plot is described amazingly well. Quite some effort has been put into blending the characters with the milieu. Having spent a good number of his ‘formative years’ in Ahmedabad (Chetan Bhagat is an IIM-A alumnus), his knowledge of the city inside out shows all through the book. The visual imagery of the sixth largest Indian city (often dismissed as a small-town, Bhagat exasperatedly muses) is splendid in a strangely nondescript manner.

Despite all his well-pulled-off effort, I wouldn’t rate “The Three Mistakes” as the best one yet from Bhagat’s stable. Bhagat writes this in the mould of his previous book. He does a cameo in his own story. So there’s this remarkably-appalling cock-and-bull story about how Govind (the protagonist) e-mails Chetan about his forthcoming suicide, and how he pops exactly the same number of sleeping pills as there are number of sentences in his e-mail! (Duh!) Dutifully reader-loving, hottest-author-on-the-block guy that Bhagat is, he gets to know the felo-de-se’s whereabouts from a professor at IIM and touches down to Ahmedabad in search of a potential story! (Gawd, how cheesy can this be??!) Needless to say, Bhagat listens to his story (yes, Govind is the narrator), and finally leaves them all basking in happily-ever-after glory. Oh, by the way, he reunites the lovers of the ‘unacceptable love story’ in the end! If you ask me, the climax wasn’t upto the mark! It’s too mundane and predictable.

Plot holes abound in this book. Like, how did our analytical-minded, Mathematics-loving, emotionally-discharged hero read Bhagat’s books and e-mail his suicide note to him, even when he had a long-lost girlfriend and estranged once-best-friend waiting? Only the affluent owned mobile phones in 2000 and we have lots of SMSing action all through the book! Now Govind, the poorest of his gang, is a middle class guy who rejoices on reaching an ‘astounding’ business target of Rs 40,000 a quarter, mind you! (I’d love to mention more, but then I’ll get myself sued by Chetan Bhagat himself!) Of the ‘three mistakes’, I could only find the first one highlighted in the book. In total, I could count only two ‘prominent’ mistakes, where is the third one? Or was it blended in the plot itself? Did I miss it? I’ll never know, for sure. Quick tip, Mr Bhagat. When you give a catchy title to your new book, make sure that at least an echo of its essence thrives at some point of the plot.

As I said before, “The Three Mistakes of My Life” is quintessentially Chetan Bhagat. Everything, right from the suave paperback packaging by Rupa to the sex scene has Chetan’s name written all over it. Alright, it works fine and I’m sure this one will succeed like his previous works, but shouldn’t there be a full-stop someday? As in, I expect a whole whiff of fresh air that Chetan initially brought with his carefully-construed IITian-youth angst. Yes, Mr Bhagat!! Being one of his greatest fans alive, I demand change from you!! Alright, you strike a well-meaning chord with the youth thanks to your cheeky books, but don’t you think it’s high time for something serious? Different? Satisfying?

Despite all this, I STRONGLY recommend “The Three Mistakes of my life”! It’s heartening and feel-good. Do give it a try if you’re down with a bad mood and I’m sure it’ll lift your spirits. Hardcore Chetan Bhagat fans like me will find a slight off-key note at some point, but still you’ll love it. Picture this, my copy was full off printing errors and I couldn’t actually read about six pages due to typeset overlapping. Still I managed to read it in one stretch, despite parents’ incessant wrath for ‘not productively utilizing time’! How cool can that be?

I read through all this! Believe me! 😉

My Rating: 7.67/10

By hari

A twenty-something support engineer, web developer, blogger and journalist who makes the web a better place for a living, at Automattic. Immensely passionate about WordPress! Also loves books, music, movies, and drinking hot cups of coffee on rainy evenings. Dreams of writing a book, someday.


  1. I’d say tht this was a very good review. U told th better part of th plot n even went on to criticise Mr Bhagat for coming down to Ahmedabad for gettin a story. If u felt tht was cheeky then what’ll u say abt th start of one night @ call centre? Wasn’t tht cheeky? 1st it was his note saying never has a good lookin gal sat with him, then comes the theme walking in and starts abusing the author. And voila, we’ve a new novel, all set to rock th call centre world. So why can’t he do it this way? Except 5.someone, which was his own biopic of life in iit’s i’d say he needs or rather feels that he shd justify to the reader why he wrote that book n how’d he arrive at the plot. I’d say enough is enough n he shd move on n be mature enough to know that the first few months his books will sell like hot cakes coz of his reputation. Proof is the fact that even after searchin in 12 stores in Bhuvaneshwar i didn’t get a copy. So why the reason? Can’t he start it just lik others? Or is it coz he wants to CONNECT to the reader, making him feel tht th author is just another chip in the block? I won’t call anyone who’s an alumni of not one but two of India’s best known institutes of higher learning, the IIT n IIM. So lemme stop all this chatter n get the book.

    How’d u arrive at that nice round figure of RATING in the end of the post? Market survey? 🙂

  2. @ Abhi:
    Wow. This ain’t ‘digression’ as you’d smsed me! 😛

    Well, that too was cheeky, but at that time it looked DIFFERENT coz it was the first time an Indian author broke the rules… Well now that he’s doing it the second time, it looks all the more cheesy now! And you’re right. Bhagat needs to move beyond his moulds and do something different. About his fame, actually, I too had to ransack three stores to get the book! 🙂

    @ freebird (& abhi)
    Well, it’s no market survey! Just a touch of precision; that’s all! 😉

  3. hmm.. i’ve mixed opinions about this guy.. not quite on my top writers list. Hell, did I say I have a top writers list? Well, I dont 😀

    Good review – no hero-worship nor any mindless bashing – just the kind of review i like. Thanks… a visit to the book stalls is due.

  4. nice review… very well balanced… covers the positives as well as the negatives of the books …. like you say some of the things are very cheesy in Chetan’s books like Govind emailing him when he commits suicide and a whole lot of other stuff that you mentioned….. as for the cellphones I don’t really remember but from reading articles i remember that 2001 was the time the boom started and tariffs started getting cheaper but anyways a pretty questionable point ( I mean to Chetan)…

    and yes Chetan should mature from now on. He’s got his readers that have never been in the habit of reading like me so he should start raising the standards of his books and taking them to a higher level.

  5. @ the smokin’ wdm

    @ arvind
    Dude… Cellphones began getting cheaper in 2000-2001 after the drastic tariff reduction spree, yes. But, few could afford them still… And Govind, Omi and Ishaan are small businessmen without much turnover… How COULD they afford a mobile phone? 🙂 Leave Vidya, coz Bhagat has ‘bailed her out’ by mentioning that her dad works in Telephones and they have lots of telephones at home in the first chap.

    Thanks, anyway! 😀 It’s high time Chetan did something different…

  6. Good Review!!The climax was disappointing. Just like the harry potter series, his books have become progressively darker,with more politics and religion involved. Liked t other 2 books better. Govind’s 3rd mistake was his delay in saving ali’s life!!

  7. @ jithinferrari
    Matter of fact, I too discovered it the other day! Thanks again…

    But people are dissing the book like hell, you see…

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