Thursday, March 15, 2018

The Ministry of Utmost Happiness


I don't have words..


It's not the first time I've tried a novel of Arundhati Roy and I even have to admit that I never finished The God Of Small Things. This one caught my eye when I was browsing the New Section in our local library and I thought I'd give it a go.
The title is very inviting.
Although I do have very good experience with Indian writers as I've been amazed by Beauty is a wound & The Alchemy of Desire. Both of those novels a have a certain quality about them that I haven't encountered in anything before.

I'm a fan of tantalising novels, where there is more focus upon the characters and the chemistry with each other and their environment than on the 'actions' they perform.
I love the 'why' not the 'how'. If I wanted to see 'how', I'd see more movies and read less novels.

As I'm a true born and bred European, Indian culture seems like a fairy tale from some distant and non-existing land where anything can happen. Its literature is so much pervaded with magic and mystical energy that it is sometimes hard to image that these fantasy creatures are based upon actual people.

In both Beauty is a wound & The Alchemy of Desire the focus is upon the characters, wherein The ministry of Utmost Happiness takes a large chunk out of Indian history and recent events to flavor its story. It's violent history and its tendons in today's world are as much a part of this story that you almost come to perceive this as a actual character. Some kind of evil wizard there to mess up the lives of the people you've come to love and care for.
In its way this novel is a pamphlet with how much India is derailed from sanity and common sense, but it never feels like you're reading a political novel, even though it certainly is.

And although the political and historical aspect in this novel is very strongly and beautifully interwoven in the story, the characters who inhabit this novel are as remarkable as the rest.
They aren't any run of the mill people, but any one of them has in some way a unique mindset and therefore chosen a certain way of life. It's nothing that I could dream of, because I am limited by my spoilt Western ways.
Their stories are heartfelt and real, even though you couldn't imagine this to be real, you know it must be. It's almost too fantastic not to be real. Reality has a way of doing that.
So, while trying to imagine how they live, breathe, love, survive, you come to know a beautiful bunch of people you'll be saddened to leave when you've read the last page.

If you're like me, and you like to get invested in a story where characters deepness is more important than any "actions" they do, you'll love this novel as much as I did.

And for those who've already read it..
Remember Commander Gulrez and his ear medicine, his two kittens in his pocket and the cock who shouldn't have been born in a world where he didn't know how to behave.