Arundhati Roy – The Ministry of Utmost Happiness


At first I was going to say what a mess this book is. I mean information is flung at you. Characters show up every few lines. Not to mention the endless pages about the politics in several regions in India (rather than focus on one) . But then I read the following quote at the end of the book:

‘How to tell a shattered story?
By slowly becoming everybody?
By slowly becoming everything’

and THAT sums up the book.

After reflection between reading this book is not a mess but rather a reflection of life. The way personal destinies destinies cross and entwine themselves with history, which in turn becomes a personal history. Roy stuffs a lot in this novel and, although daunting, it makes perfect sense.

I saw the main message as a snapshot of India’s history from partition and the after effects which still are present in the 21st century: the suffering, the political maneuvers, the campaigns but Roy also includes a human side and that’s with her character. It also ends up being a commentary on attitudes on sexuality, the notion of gender, the caste system and we readers get doses of Indian mythology, traditions, prayers and details about typical Indian dishes. Not only is this a novel of purposeful information overload but it is sprawling. In fact dozens of comparisons kept flashing in my mind – Jodrowsky, Rushdie, Hedwig and the Angry Inch, Sashi Tharoor and even a bit of Arundhati Roy’s previous book,, The God of Small Things popped up.

Is it an enjoyable read? In places I thought it was pure genius, other times I did feel a bit disengaged from the narrative but when these occasions were brief and Roy would throw in a plot twist or something like that and I would focus on the book again.

Definitely not a book to read once and I am sure that the second time round (hopefully in a year or so) there will be new discoveries.

Maybe it’s not the masterpiece as Roy’s first novel but Ministry… is delves deeper into Roy’s political mind and is open to more interpretation and dissecting.

Book 926 Arundhati Roy – The God of Small Things

I first read The God of Small Things back in 2002. At the time I was at the bookstore and I had a split shift, meaning that from 1 :30 til 4:00 i had ample time to sit and read.  I remember those cold February days when I’d plonk myself on a bench with my sandwich and just read sizable chunks of books, while staring at the sea now and then.

When finished reading this eight years ago I was happy that I read it but could not really see the fuss about it.

As we jump into the future and I finish reading it for a second time,  my ‘like’ for this novel has increased into a ‘love’

Estha and Rahel are  twins (male and female)  who have decided to meet again after a very long absence. As they are wandering in their old house a flood of memories start reappearing. Mostly about how their half  Indian cousin drowned and the fate of their carpenter who rebelled against his caste (this happened in the 60’s). Apparently these incidents affect Estha badly for throughout the parts of the book which take place in 1990’s India , he is a mute who obsessively washes his clothes.

This is the focal point of  The God of Small Things. Roy criticizes the caste system and very savagely.  However this is all told through the eyes of Estha and Rahel, who are children at the time so us readers see an innocent viewpoint of some very serious matters. Roy portrays 1960’s India as a corrupt country that is rigid due to the caste system.  Mind you the sections which deal with modern-day India is no less forgiving.

One can also say this is a book about love but to go into detail about this aspect will spoil the novel. All I can say that love definitely shapes the destinies of the characters of this book , for better or for worse (mostly the latter)

The writing is reminiscent of Rushdie, There is liberal use of puns , wordplay and words spelt and pronounced in childish jargon, whereas Rushdie can appear a bit lofty doing this, Roy brings it down to Earth. Her style also does mutate throughout the book, especially during the last chapter which is indescribably beautiful, not to mention her eye for detail.

While re reading this book, I was amazed at the amount that I had forgotten, including some major scenes so I’m glad that I went through this a second time for it is indeed a modern classic.