BOOK REVIEW: THE GOD OF SMALL THINGS!
‘The God of Small Things‘ is a Booker prize-winning novel written by Arundhati Roy. This is the debut novel by Roy which became the literary sensation throughout the world after it got published in New Delhi in 1997. It is a lushly written novel which describes the story of Kochammas, a wealthy Christian family in a small village of the South-Indian state, Kerala. The novel is from the perspective of Rahel Kochamma, who has returned to her hometown to meet his twin brother, Estha, who got separated several years ago.
This novel is an ambitious work with themes ranging from religion to biology in which Roy had tried to stress throughout the novel that there is an interconnection between small and great themes. ‘The God of Small Things’ have a thoroughly developed theme on forbidden love, Indian history, and politics.
AUTHOR – ARUNDHATI ROY
Arundhati Roy is an Indian author who is well known for her debut novel “The God of Small Things“. She was born on 24th November 1961 in Shillong, Meghalaya, to Mary Roy (Syrian Christian mother from Kerala) and Rajib Roy (a Bengali Hindu tea planter from Calcutta) and was brought up in Kerala. She won the Man Booker Prize for “The God of Small Things” in 1997. She is also a political activist involved in human rights and environmental causes.
THE GOD OF SMALL THINGS – PLOT
The story begins with the returning of Rahel, to her childhood home in Ayemenem to meet her brother, Estha. Rahel and Estha (Esthappen), are two-legged (dizygotic) twins of Ammu, who moved to Kerala after getting divorced from her husband, Baba. The whole story is set with back and forth shifts between 1969 when the twins were seven years old and 1993, When they reunited at the age of 31. A lot of Malayalam words are used in conjunction with English throughout the novel. Communism, caste system, and the life of Syrian Christians are painted in the novel.
Ammu Ipe managed to marry a tea-estate owner, Baba in Calcutta, during their summer visit to a distant aunt in Calcutta. She was desperate to escape from her short-tempered father, Pappachi and her long-suffering mother, Mammachi. But after marriage, Ammu was physically abused and tried to pimp to the boss in order to keep his job, by the alcoholic husband. After giving birth to the twins, she leaves her husband and sets back to Agreement to her parents and brother, Chacko who returned from England to run his pickle business after divorcing his English wife, Margaret and the death of Pappachi.
In that family, Pappachi’s sister, Rahel’s great aunt, Baby Kochamma (Navomi Ipe), who is an unmarried ex-nun converted to Roman Catholicism. She has a part of a broken love with Father Mulligan, which was the trigger of her converting. In the entire Book, we can see her getting delighted in the misfortunes happening to others and constantly tries to manipulate events to create calamities on Ammu and her twins.
After the demise of Margaret’s second husband, Chacko was prompted to invite her along with his daughter Sophie to spend Christmas in Ayemenem. Prior to their arrival, the family (Chacko, Baby Kochamma, Ammu, the twins), was going to the theatre, they were surrounded by the communist protesters. They forced Baby Kochamma to wave a red flag and chant the communist slogan which humiliated her. Rahel thinks that she saw Velutha, a servant working in their pickle factory among the communists. This made Baby Kochamma to harbour a deep hatred towards Velutha, who is an untouchable, a daily (the lowest cast in India). Later, in the theatre, Estha was sexually molested by the vendor in the snack counter who is described as an “Orangedrink Lemondrink Man“.
Velutha was an extremely gifted carpenter and mechanic. Rahel and Estha build up an unlikely relationship with Velutha despite his caste status. This eventually made Ammu to “love by night the man her children loved by day“.
They began a short-lived affair which culminates in tragedy. When this relationship was discovered, Ammu was locked in her room, and Velutha was banished. In this rage, Ammu blames her twins for the misfortune and calls them as “millstones around her neck“. The twins decide to run away but Sophie, Chacko’ s daughter persuades them to take her with them. When they were trying to reach the abandoned house across the river at night, their boat capsizes and Sophie drowns to death.
Baby Kochamma goes to police and accuses Velutha of Sophie’ s death claiming that Velutha tried to rape Ammu, threatened the family and kidnapped the children. The policemen hunt down Velutha and brutally beats him for crossing the caste lines, and arrests him. The twins witnessed the horrific scene huddling in the abandoned house. Later the twins revealed the truth of their missing and death of Sophie with the police chief. The police chief was alarmed by Velutha’ s wrongful arrest may cause unrest among the local communists and threatens to hold Baby Kochamma responsible for falsely accusing Velutha. Baby Kochamma tricks the twins to save herself, making them believe that they would be implicated as having murdered Sophie out of jealousy, and will have to face sure imprisonment along with Ammu. Baby Kochamma convinces them to lie to the inspector, that Velutha had kidnapped them and murdered Sophie. Velutha succumbs to death overnight out of his injuries.
After Sophie’s funeral, Ammu rushes to the police station to reveal the truth about her relationship with Velutha along with the twins. There she got threatened by the police. Baby Kochamma was afraid of being exposed and convinces Chacko that Ammu and the twins were responsible for his daughter’s death for which Chacko kicks Ammu out of the house and forces Estha to live with his father. He never sees Ammu again as she died alone later at the age of 31.
Rahel gets married and goes to America after the turbulent childhood and adolescence. There she got divorced and returned to Ayemenem. Rahel and Estha now at 31 years, the age when their mother died were reunited. During all these years they were haunted by their guilt and grief.-ridden pasts. Estha became perpetually silent and Rahel had a haunted look in her eyes. It is very apparent in the end that the twins never found another person who understood them in the way they understood each other. The novel has an ending where the twins had sex.
I felt Rahel similar to Roy who was born in North-eastern Indian state to a Syrian Christian mother from Kerala and a Bengali Hindu father who had a tea estate. Roy’s childhood was also similar to Rahel, spent it Ayemenem where she witnessed the cultural diversity, caste and religious discriminations, communism, political corruption, which are all portrayed in the novel.
The narrative focused on the details of Small Things in life. It has shockingly new idioms, deceptively simple sentence to express huge ideas and promising imagery. It has local Malayalam words and sentences sprinkled across which signifies the cultural hybridity of the characters employed with repetitious phrases and neologisms. I found equal easiness and difficulty to read any chapter randomly at the beginning.