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Authors: Chetan Bhagat

Half Girlfriend

BOOK: Half Girlfriend
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Praise for the author

Many writers are successful at expressing what’s in their hearts or

articulating a particular point of view. Chetan Bhagat’s books do both

and more.

-A.R. Rahman, in TIME magazine, on Chetan’s inclusion in the TIME

100 most influential people in the world
The voice of India’s rising entrepreneurial class.

- Fast Company Magazine, on Chetan’s inclusion in the 100 most

creative people in business globally
India’s paperback king.

- The Guardian

The biggest-selling English-language novelist in India’s history.

- The New York Times
A rockstar of Indian publishing.

- The Times of India

Bhagat has touched a nerve with young Indian readers and

acquired almost cult status.

- International Herald Tribune

CHETAN BHAGAT

First published by

Rupa Publications India Pvt. Ltd 2014

7/16,Ansari Road, Daryaganj New Delhi 110002

Sales centres:
Allahabad Bengaluru Chennai Hyderabad Jaipur

Kathmandu Kolkata Mumbai

Copyright © Chetan Bhagat 2014

Lyrics on page 223 have been taken from the song
Don't Wanna Miss

a Thing
by Aerosmith (Sony Music); on page 224 from the song
A
Thousand Years
by Christina Perri (Atlantic Records); and on pages 253-254 from the song
You’re Beautiful
by James Blunt (Atlantic

Records). While every effort has been made to trace copyright holders

and obtain permission, this has not been possible in all cases; any

omissions brought to our attention will be remedied in future editions.

All rights reserved.

No part of this publication may be reproduced, transmitted, or stored

in a retrieval system, in any form or by any means, electronic,

mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior

permission of the publisher.

ISBN: 978-81-291-3572-8

Fifth impression 2014

1 0 9 8 7 6 5

The moral right of the author has been asserted.

Printed at Thomson Press India Ltd, Faridabad This book is sold

subject to the condition that it shall not, by way of trade or otherwise, be lent, resold, hired out, or otherwise circulated, without the

publisher’s prior consent, in any form of binding or cover other than

that in which it is published.

For my mother

For rural India

For the non-English types

Acknowledgements and some thoughts

Thank you, dear reader and friend, for picking up Half Girlfriend.

Whatever I have achieved today in life is thanks to you. Here’s

thanking all those who helped me with this book:

Shinie Antony, my editor and first reader since Five Point

Someone. Her feedback is invaluable.

Those who helped me at various stages of conceptualizing,

research and editing—Anubha Bang, Abhishek Kapoor, Anusha

Bhagat, Masaba Gupta, Ayesha Raval, Abha Bakaya and Anusha

Venkatachalam.

My team—Bhakti, Michelle, Tanya and Virali.

My immediate family—Anusha, Shyam, Ishaan. My mother,

Rekha. My brother and his wife, Ketan and Pia. My in-laws, Suri,

Kalpana, Anand and Poonam.

Friends who make life worthwhile.

My extended family on Twitter and Facebook.

The entire team at Rupa Publications India.

All those I met in Bihar while writing this book.

And, finally, Bill Gates—and not just for Microsoft Word this time.

I want to share something with you. With this book, I complete ten

years as a writer.When I started writing, my motives were different. I

wanted to make it. I wanted to prove a point. Today, I write for

different reasons. I write for change. A change in the mindset of

Indian society. It is a lofty goal, and I am not foolish enough to think' I can ever achieve it. However, it helps to have positive intentions and a

direction in life, and I am glad to have found mine.

I want to reach as many people as I can—through books, films or

other mediums of entertainment, I am human; I will falter and I will

have ups and downs. If possible, try to maintain your support and

keep me grounded through that process,

One more thing; don’t give me your admiration, Give me your

love. Admiration passes, love endures. Also, admiration comes with

expectations, Love accepts some flaws,

In fact, people sometimes ask me how I would like to be

remembered. While hopefully that is a while away, all I tell them this: I don’t want to be remembered, I just want to be missed. Welcome to

Half Girlfriend
.

Prologue

'They are your journals, you read them,’ I said to him.

He shook his head.

‘Listen, I don’t have the time or patience for this,’ I said, getting

irritated. Being a writer on a book tour doesn’t allow for much sleep—

I had not slept more than four hours a night for a week. I checked my

watch. ‘It’s midnight. I gave you my view. It’s time for me to sleep

now.’

‘I want yon to read them,’ he said.

We were in my room at the Chanakya Hotel,Patna.This morning,

he had tried to stop me on my way out.Then he had waited for me all

day; I had returned late at night to find him sitting in the hotel lobby.

‘Just give me five minutes, sir,’ he had said, following me into the

lift. And now here we were in my room as he pulled out three tattered

notebooks from his backpack.

The spines of the notebooks came apart as he plonked them on the

table.The yellowing pages fanned out between us.The pages had

handwritten text, mostly illegible as the ink had smudged. Many pages

had holes, rats having snacked on them.

An aspiring writer
, I thought.

‘If this is a manuscript, please submit it to a publisher. However,

do not send it in this state,’ I said.

‘I am not a writer.This is not a book.’

‘It’s not?’ I said, lightly touching a crumbling page. I looked up at

him. Even seated, he was tall. Over six feet in height, he had a

sunburnt, outdoor ruggedness about him. Black hair, black eyes and a

particularly intense gaze. He wore a shirt two sizes too big for his lean frame. He had large hands. He reassembled the notebooks, gentle with

bis fingers, almost caressing the pages.

‘What are these?’ I said.

‘I had a friend.These are her journals,’ he said.

‘Her journals. Ah. A girlfriend?’

‘Half-girlfriend,’

‘What?’

He shrugged.

‘Listen, have you eaten anything all day?’ I said.

He shook Iris head. I looked around. A bowl of fruit and some

chocolates sat next to my bed. He took a piece of, dark chocolate when

I offered it.

‘So what do you want from me?’ I said.

‘I want you to read these journals, whatever is readable...because I

can’t.’

I looked at him, surprised.

‘You can’t read? As in, you can’t read in general? Or you can’t read

these?

‘These.’

‘Why not?’ I said, reaching for a chocolate myself.

‘Because Riya’s dead.’

My hand froze in mid-air.You cannot pick up a chocolate when

someone has just mentioned a death.

‘Did you just say the girl who wrote these journals is dead?’

He nodded. I took a few deep breaths and wondered what to say

next.

‘Why are they in such terrible shape?’ I said after a pause.

‘They are old. Her ex-landlord found them after years.’

‘Sorry, Mr Whats-your-name. Can I order some food first?’ I

picked up the phone in the room and ordered two club sandwiches

from the limited midnight menu.

'I'm Madhav. Madhav Jha. I live in Dumraon, eighty kilometres

from here.’

‘What do you do?’

‘I run a school there,’

‘Oh, that’s...’ I paused, searching for the right word.

'...noble? Not really. It’s my mother’s school.’

‘I was going to say that’s unusual.You speak English. Not typical of

someone who runs a school in the back of beyond.’

‘My English is still bad. I have a Bihari accent,’ he said, without a

trace of self-consciousness,

'French people have a French accent when they speak English,'

'My English wasn’t even English until..,' he trailed off and fell silent. I saw him swallow to keep his composure
.

‘Until?’

He absently stroked the notebooks on the desk.

‘Nothing. Actually, I went to St. Stephen’s.’

‘In Delhi?’

‘Yes. English types call it “Steven’s”.’

I smiled. ‘And you are not one of the English types?’

‘Not at all.’

The doorbell startled us.The waiter shifted the journals to put the

sandwich tray on the table. A few sheets fell to the floor.

‘Careful!’ Madhav shouted, as if the waiter had broken some

antique crystal.

The waiter apologized and scooted out of the room.

I offered Madhav the club sandwich, which had a tomato, cheese

and lettuce filling. He ignored me and rearranged the loose sheets of

paper.

‘Are you okay? Please eat.’

He nodded, His eyes still on the pages of the journal. I decided to

eat, since my imposed guest didn’t seem to care for my hospitality.

‘These journals obviously mean a lot to you. But why have you

brought them here?’

‘For you to read. Maybe they will be useful to you.’

‘How will they be useful to me?’ I said, my voice firmer with the

food inside me. A part of me wanted him out of my room as soon as

possible.

‘She used to like your books. We used to read them together,’ he

said in a soft voice.‘For me to learn English.’

‘Madhav,’ I said, as calmly as possible, ‘this seems like a sensitive

BOOK: Half Girlfriend
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