‘How to tell a shattered story ? ‘
The story begins with the life of Aftab that travels through the lives of the Hijras of Delhi, and then takes you to a graveyard as there you sit with her, watching vultures quietly drop dead. The author makes us look at this small uneventful passing in a decrepit graveyard subtly, yet obviously linked to the country’s culture of capitalism. The narration is overwhelming, for every line is like a life crammed with stories. It is filled with the historical climate of India during that time, it is dipped in India’s social prejudices, the warped religious ideologies and the political climate. The story is like a possessive lover, demanding all of your attention all the time. It is filled with knowledge, information and a very deep understanding of the political struggles and the struggles of society through the wars that were created over Kashmir, over religion, imperialism and fascism. A large part of the story hovers around the lives of Hijras and the immense struggle that they suffer being ostracized by society. The narration is raw and real, and you can feel the pain of Anjum. You feel her loneliness and her sense of belonging in a decrepit graveyard. In the middle of this social dilemma the author astutely weaves in a beautiful love story around the war in Jammu and Kashmir. The intensity of the narration, the details, and the stark visual will only kindle a fire in your heart and even without wanting to, a voice inside of you will scream with the Kashmiri people for freedom and for justice. I had to go back a few times during the reading to join the dots, to re-connect with the characters, to understand the political scenario and the role it played in the lives of the protagonists. I love the mystique with which Tilotamma was sketched. I love the vibrancy and courage of Anjum (Aftab) and I love the deep, brooding, unbreakable love between Tilotamma and Musa. AR’s writing was just jaw-dropping, I loved her play with words, I loved the depth of the expression and her phrases in this book will go down in history.
‘At magic hour; when the sun has gone but the light has not, armies of flying foxes unhinge themselves from the Banyan trees in the old graveyard and drift across the city like smoke . . .’
So begins The Ministry of Utmost Happiness, Arundhati Roy’s incredible follow-up to The God of Small Things. We meet Anjum, who used to be Aftab, who runs a guest house in an Old Delhi graveyard and gathers around her the lost, the broken and the cast out. We meet Tilo, an architect, who, although she is loved by three men, lives in a ‘country of her own skin’. When Tilo claims an abandoned baby as her own, her destiny and that of Anjum become entangled as a tale that sweeps across the years and a teeming continent takes flight. . .
Reviewed by : Sherral Joseph