We wake up. We eat. We work. And we sleep. That’s how life has been for many of us, almost all of us, between any time frame. But beyond the grey line there are lives that has seen the wicked turns of life. Being merely puppets that has lost the hang of the strings by their smallest actions, smallest words that were not really meant. Ammu too wouldn’t have meant when she said to her twin kids, “If it weren’t for you I would be free.. You are the millstones round my neck-“, in an outburst. But that’s what made them to “Prepare to prepare to be prepared” that changed their lives forever.
Reading “The God of Small Things” by Arundathi Roy is a total delight. This 1997 Booker Prize winner hardly needs any new adulation or critical review. The cover page covers that precisely,
“Intricately plotted, it captures to perfection the magical and anguished world of twins Estha and Rahel. Luxurious, tender and devastating”.
It is magical in the way the real world of Ayemenem (Kerala), a green part of southern India, is brought to our minds unadulterated. Some might perceive it melancholic and that’s only because it lacks the conventional happily-ever-after ending. On the outset the book beautifully contrasts the death of two people. Sophie Mol, the little white girl from England, who was loved by all and the other, the untouchable carpenter, who too was loved equally but secretly. But in the greater depths of the words there are many emotions than just sadness. The way Roy narrates the things will keep you holding the book in awe. Consider this, when Chako describes History to his young twin cousins,
“He made them imagine that the earth – four thousand six hundred million years old – was a forty-six-year-old woman.. It had take the whole of Earth Woman’s life for the earth to become what it was. The Earth woman eleven years old, when the first single-celled organisms appeared.. She was over forty-five – just eight months ago – when dinosaurs roamed the earth.. And we, my dears, everything we are and ever will be – are just a twinkle in her eye..”
However the best thing about the novel is the way things are described, the way the events are drawn in our minds with utter sarcasm braced to metaphors. As the twins and their family wait in their Plymouth on a rail crossing,
“There were so many stains on the road.
Squashed frog-shaped stains on in the Universe.
Squashed crows that had tried to eat the squashed frog-shaped stains in the Universe.
Squashed dogs that ate the squashed crow-shaped stains in the Universe.”
And at a later point Joe’s absence becomes,
“a Joe shaped hole in the Universe.”
The pace of the story remains constant throughout, even though it jumps between the past and the present. Yes, this is one good non-linear fiction. It never rushes to meet a climax. Even at the penultimate chapters when the emotions pile up, the Kathakali (regional dance-drama) playing at the temple is a much needed respite for Rahel and the readers too. There we also get to understand the contemporary status of Kerala’s iconic art and its artiste,
“The Kathakali Man is the most beautiful of Men. Because his body is his soul. His only instrument. From the age of three it has been planed and polished, pared down, harnessed wholly to the task of story-telling.. But these days he has become unviable. Unfeasible. Condemned goods. In despair he turns to tourism.. He becomes a Regional Flavor.”
In all “The God of Small Things” is a breezy read that might dishearten you here and there, but by the end you will find yourself at peace for the way the characters get on with their lives. You will feel a thirst quenched with every turn of the page.