After a long wait and long means really long ,after almost two decades, we did get to read Arundhati Roy’s second fiction .She is an Indian author who writes in English and is based in India .Her first book ,God Of Small Things , catapulted her as one of the most brilliant writers of her time .It won her the Man Booker Prize and the book was translated into almost forty languages .The book was a masterpiece in itself and I do not know how many times I have read it .She has many non fictions to her credit in between the works of her fiction .
The book “Ministry Of Utmost Happiness” is in two parts . In the first part her protagonist is from that part of society who are considered anomalies of the society . They are acknowledged and tolerated.and with time they are supposed to fade away .
Anjum , who is a transgender is a resident of the Older part Of Delhi .Older part of Delhi is famous for its delicious meals, poetry , historical monuments and narrow bylanes . Her mother inspite of knowing about her ambiguous sex , tried to raise her as a male child as it is the preferred sex .But all her mother’s efforts fail . Anjum’s inner conflicts prevails over her social obligations and she decides to break free . She moves to a place called “khwabgah “[Dream Palace } where after initiation rites she is inducted into the group of transgenders.The residents of Khwabgah call the real world” Duniya”.
Anjum is happy in her new life and accepts the usual challenges of a transgender . She gets her share of fame as she becomes some kind of spokesperson for the transgenders . Mother hood happens to her accidentally as she finds an abandoned girl on the steps of a Mosque .The child is raised by all the residents of the commune and Anjum takes her responsibilities very seriously
But life takes a dramatic turn when she goes on a pilgrimage to pray for her child’s good health .She returns as a different person and suffers from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and decides to leave her home for the most unexpected destination which she calls her as her new home .
In the second part , we move to the newer part of Delhi where again author has chosen a very unconventional protagonist .She is an architect who has no family and she supports herself by doing various part time jobs .She does not have a sought after complexion and has equally unaccepted ways of life , but she is being wooed by three men .She is a soul mate for one and marries the other two . As protagonist Tilo ,follows her love , we get to see the disturbed State of Jammu and Kashmir in close quarters where India is fighting a proxy war .
In a very fascinating way ,author connects both the parts of the book as both her protagonists very interestingly meet each other .
Author has once again aced in her art and had been brilliant in this venture .As her protagonists navigate their lives , she introduces numerous characters who had been described to perfection which makes this book a must read . Author describes interesting anecdotes throughout and those who are familiar with those geographical areas would really relish them Political commentary continues throughout the book and she touches upon various political mile stones of the 80s .She presents various political character of those times and gives them wrapping of her own personnel interpretation which gives the book a humorous touch . She is honest , brave and stark about her opinions when she describes the religious riots of Gujrat or Post assassination riots of Mrs Gandhi or Union Carbide gas leakage .
Both the protagonists are considered other than normal in Indian society .Her treatment of both the characters are so close to real that one marvels at our own country and its paradoxes to the extreme .
Though India is vying for one of the top economic powers of the World , it is a very traditional country in spirit .The surface calm holds it all together but any slight ripple breaks it all loose .Any aberration from the perceived normal brings out the worst in the society and one keeps wondering what caused this bipolar behavior. The gentle Indian changes into some thing else.
The threshold of tolerance is getting lower day by day and counter expression by violence is getting to be the new normal .The recent outrage and protests that a Movie “Padmavat” has caused amongst the Northern part of India has taken us by surprise .It is a film based on the story of an ancient Rajput queen , Padmavati ,who commits self immolation also known as” Sati” when her husband looses the kingdom to an enemy King . Sati had been a past tradition which had been prohibited by law in the colonial India . A mere film which could cause so much outrage in the country makes us wonder that how could the same India, which is vying to be the biggest world IT human resource could react to a cinematic expression in such a way !
Wishing you all a happy February .