Sunday, June 11, 2017

The Ministry of Utmost Happiness-Book Review



“To The Unconsoled” 


Arundhati Roy writes in the dedication page of ‘The Ministry of Utmost Happiness’. And what can console in a better way than berries and plums of the summer and rains for breakfast on a Sunday morning. A bowl of ripe jamuns and kokum juice soaked overnight is just like Roy’s writing, pungent and poignant. I began this book with a presumption that some weekends and reads especially when it is after two decades, they are truly meant for shattered stories.


I read ‘The Ministry of Utmost Happiness’ like a perseverative reader determined to understand the intent of Roy’s words. What clearly stood out for me was the fact that there is no middle ground when it comes to having an opinion on this second work of fiction of hers written after two decades. You either like or dislike. 

There are very few writers who go beyond prose or poetry, between heights and depths of life and living. A lot here depends on the reader’s intellect and interest on many issues and events that have shaped today’s India, so if somebody reading the book does not feel connected I rather not blame the writing. Of course the plot lacks linearity and is greatly influenced by her viewpoints which can be interpreted in a hundred different ways. The incidental mentions of the you-know-who people leaves us with a chuckle, not for the humour but for our own lack of concern and action.

I am impressed by the distinctiveness of this book for two reasons. Firstly the theme is absolutely haphazard, like scattered pieces of a very difficult jigsaw puzzle which can never be solved or fixed. The characters and events are like tiny motes of stardust in the same sky, connected nevertheless. Every issue of political, social and more so everyday significance talked about directly or indirectly oozes out a strange kind of individuality parallel to the author's thinking.

Secondly the idea that nothing should bring down or berate anybody’s or anything’s existence; no species, no nationality, no gender, no caste, no status, no education, no belief, no religion, no occupation, no upbringing, no law of the land, no establishment or no other human, that by itself was thought provoking and impressed me greatly. 

Her description on many issues, particularly the part on martyrdom has left me transmogrified. We live in a world that makes us as well as breaks us. The breaking is what we end up focusing on. One thing’s for sure. Call it anti national. Call it dissident. Call it wail. Call it bestseller. Call it exceptional. Call it much awaited. It really does not make a difference. Call it ‘The Ministry of Utmost Happiness’ and read it, that’s all that matters.


-R.



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