The God of Small Things [Book Review]


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.


Raagam Bakery

“The Tea Shop” is just around the corner of the road to my place. This has become a regular pit-stop on my way back from work, to take a breath from a long day. It is much of a tea shop and yet goes around with the suffix “bakery” to the name in line with a decade long tea shop tradition in the locality. They do bake, boil and fry a variety of stuff. Stuffs that are mouthwatering like the pineapple cake, jammed cakes, photo printed birthday cakes, assortment of biscuits, cubes of colorful homemade chocolates, all stacked in order, inside temperature controlled glass displays. And yet a couple of files are already in, sampling the freshly baked. Life always finds its way. Meanwhile the common favorites the puffs (veg and non-veg), it’s cousins the mushroom puffs, paneer puffs, and what-not stuffed puffs are put inside containers of optimal temperature. Just below the ceiling a series of black, orange and green colored bottles ran for almost half the length of the shop – beverages, many on the verge of their expiry date. Today, just like any other evening, the bakery is crammed with people who just got off their work. The construction workers in rags, travelling families just out of their SUVs, neighborhood mothers with their kids, carefree old men and me with an ID tag hanging down the collar, all staged perfectly, some seated, some standing with their eyes popping and nose making macaroon against the glass displays.

I didn’t make any order today. But in no time a plate with four salt biscuits and a tea was served. The guy serving is so accustomed to my routine that he never bothers to ask me what I want. I am happy with that. However at times, it severely backfires if I had something else in mind. I could hardly make anything out of the buzz around. Teen groups laughing on their particular jokes, merchant yelling in his mobile, kids keenly slurping ice creams, coins clinking at the counter. So while I wait for the tea I involuntarily pick my phone and start scratching it. But once it is on the table, business is business. I start dipping the biscuits into the tea and munch it to ecstasy, hardly gazing around the movements inside or across the busy road.

For “The Daily Post’s Writing101 – June2014″.

Hands on the Board

While I contemplate over where to start with on unlocking the mind, I struggle. Cos, it’s not so easy to pick just one thing out of the mind, at a time. Like a shuffled iTunes. You won’t know what comes next. Like a monkey. It never ceases to jump branches, even when you never wanted it to. Had it stopped, things would have been a lot better. But then that’s the fun part of life. Thoughts wandered over almost everything of my much shrunken world. It ran past the obvious. Love. My Family. My Friends. My monotonous weekday. I tried harder to focus on something different and specific. To give something reasonable to read. But with a quick bolt over my head I realized it’s too much to look for a point in everything. I went on with the flow. That reminded me of a quote from “Doctor Who”,
“There’s no point being grown-up if you can’t be childish sometimes.”

And also Roland Barthes’,
“We no longer look at the world with the eyes of a confessor, of a doctor, or of God himself but with the eyes of a man walking in his city with no other horizon than the scene before him, no other power than that of his own eyes.”

Simple and profound. Isn’t it a fact that we always see what we wanted to see leaving the rest to the oblivion?

Moving on, I was watching “What Women Want”, a fantasy-comedy movie starring Mel Gibson. It opened doors for more than one thought to me. Just thoughts, no answers yet! Would it not?  That’s a million dollar question in the title. Cos somewhere under the sun the apple went missing. The apple that rolled down the Newton’s head. The apple that had all the answers. The simple apple that Adam had to pluck to woo Eve.

For “The Daily Post’s Writing101 – June2014”.