I just finished reading the book “The God Of Small Things” by Arundhati Roy. I had obviously heard about it, Booker Prize Winner 1997 and all… But since I wasn’t all that impressed with Kiran Desai’s “The Inheritance of Loss”, I never bothered to read this one either, believing all Booker Prize Winners to be sad, long, metaphorical novels which always have at least one reference to human refuse. My mother has had a copy of TGOST for a long time now, but it wasn’t until Ninu Nani (Neerja, my sister) bought it that I was actually tempted to start reading it. So I just picked it up one night from her bag, and started.
Quite frankly, the first chapter is just painful. Its an eclectic introduction of too many places, too many people, too many connections, and her style of writing seems bizarre. There seems to be no introduction to any plot as such, and it seems to be just a random collection of sentences with no references to anything in particular. The first chapter gave me a headache, and took me an unusually long time to read through. The only reason I actually bothered to read through was the curiously continuous encouragement from Nani and Ma. “Just get through the first chapter”, they would say, “the rest is much easier to read through, and you’ll get a hang of it eventually.” Eventually. I kept reading. And waited.
By the time I got to the fourth or fifth chapter, I was totally into the story. I was even enjoying Ms. Roy’s bizarre writing style. The fraternal twin children, Rahel and Estha, have been so beautifully portrayed, and their feelings, experiences and reactions to circumstance are so genuine and realistic, it touched my heart and reminded me of the sweet gullibility of childhood. At various points in the story, I actually felt so frustrated at the way the adults in the story treat Rahel and Estha, and so helpless… Ms. Roy has managed to capture their innocence and worldview with just the right sensitivity. Its not often that adults actually remember what childhood was like. The events of their childhood scar the twins for life, and the way their thoughts have been described, I could empathize with them so easily and my heart ached as they bore the burdens of other people’s lackings on their gentle shoulders.
Ammu, their mother, is a strong character, and I found myself really liking her independent spirit and clarity of thought. Liking, until the point when she pushes Rahel and Estha away. She loves them, more than anything, but there is a strong undercurrent of her misfortunes that’s foremost on everyone’s mind, and also the onset of madness, which creates a barrier between Ammu and her children.
Velutha is a dream come true on paper. Fantastic body, dignified bearing, and a “sudden, quick” sparkling smile. Talented and great with kids. What else can a woman want? Unfortunately, he’s also an Untouchable, and there are many many many layers of history, casteism and beliefs separating him from the other protagonists.
They are all woefully human, even the multiple other characters – Baby Kochhama, Chacko, Mammachi… The theme of the story is basically about chance circumstances, and how things can change in a few hours, or a day. For a complete gist of the story and characters, please refer to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_God_of_Small_Things :)
Ms. Roy reveals every aspect of the story bit by bit, like showing an awesome gift and snatching it away every time one gets close. The present is interspersed with the past, with history’s thread weaving everything together. The plot keeps shuttling back and forth between what is happening, and what has happened. It gets a little tiring sometimes, and I had to keep my impatience in check. But by the time I was down to the last 50 odd pages, I couldn’t keep the book down. The love angle is poetically put forth, and seems like the purest part of the entire story. It is not a regular love story, or politically charged family novel, but a wonderful combination of various aspects of life, circumstances and human behavior. Thankfully, the end is quite neutral-positive, so it didn’t leave me feeling depressed at the world at large.
I feel like celebrating my success in getting through the book. Read it. You won’t regret it.