For those who have closely followed Chetan Bhagat’s previous two books, they would know what to expect from this one. “The three mistakes of my life” is not about Chetan Bhagat’s life or mistakes. It is about the life of Govind Patel, a businessman in Ahmedabad, and his two friends – Ish and Omi.
The prologue introduces the story in a dramatic fashion. The writer gets a suicide note in his email from a businessman in Ahmedabad. The mail published in the Prologue serves two purposes. Besides introducing the story, it builds the reader’s curiosity and gives a real touch to the story that is to follow. The story hovers around religion, business and cricket as the title page promises. Cricket and business dominate the first two hundred pages of the 258 page book. There are elaborate descriptions of India’s matches against South Africa and Australia.
Ishaan or Ish had run away from NDA. He is an avid cricket fan who like many other Indians had dreamt of playing for the national team. Himself unable to make it big in the game, he coaches Ali and wants to see him in the national side. Govind is “an ordinary boy in Ahmedabad”, as the prologue mentions. The story that the author tells us is his story. He has failed to make it to a first-rate engineering institute and took tuitions besides helping his mother with her business. He dreams of being a big businessman one day. Omi, the son of a Brahmin priest wants not to join his father’s profession. It is for this reason that he partners Ish and Govind in the sports shop that they set up in the temple’s compound.
The book is specially tailored to suit the taste of the Indian readers. The story is set in 2001 and the following years when first the earthquake and then riots hit the state of Gujarat. Both affect the lives of the three friends and business partners. The quake shatters their ambitious business plans, especially that of Govind who toils hard to save every bit of money for expanding his business. The new plot that they had bought for setting up their shop is ramshackle to pieces. Govind, the narrator considers it his first mistake – to bet so much money for the new shop in Navrangpura mall. Meanwhile, Govind who also teaches Ish’s teenage sister falls in love with her. Bhagat describes the burgeoning relationship and their sexual escapades in his usual flamboyant style. Govind also gets into physical relationship with his student- what he considers the second mistake of his life. The last 50 pages of the book picks up more pace. It is here that the author is at his best. Religion dominates. The plot built up in the first 200 pages reaches its climax here. Hindu Karsevaks returning from Ayodhya in a train are burnt alive by Muslims in Godhra. The train also had Bittoo mama’s (Omi’s maternal uncle) fourteen year old son who also dies with several other young Hindus. The Gujarat riots follow. Bittoo mama, a Brahmin priest and worker for the saffron party, is adamant in avenging the death of his own son and other Hindus. He and his party workers burn Muslims alive in revenge. Mama kills Ali’s father, a worker of his rival secular party and makes up his mind to kill Ali too. Ish is equally adamant in saving his little hero’s life. He sees Ali as a national property and would not let him die at any cost. A bitter clash between Bittoo mama’s supporters and the three friends follows. Ish manages to save Ali but only at the cost of Omi’s life and a severe injury to the cricketer's wrist. It happens because Govind delays by a fraction of second in pulling away Ali from Bittoo mama’s strike. The third mistake of his life. Mean Meanwhile, Ish also comes to know about Govind’s secret affair with his sisterand breaks all relationships with him.
The story ends with the epilogue which brings us back to the hospital where the prologue had left us. It ends in the usual happy note – Ish forgiving Govind and the successful operation of Ish’s wrist.