Books have always had an allure for me, ever since childhood. I still remember being the black sheep at a friend’s party as I struggled to finish my new challenge: Harry Potter and the Order of Phoenix. Oh, and not to mention, I had in my pure innocence or say, obliviousness completely discarded Indian authors. Perhaps, it was my nightmare of an experience with Chetan Bhagat and his awfully trite plots or cringeworthy dialogues that I chose to cast every other Indian sounding author in a regressive light. However, very recently, on a friend’s suggestion, I picked up a book from which I will never recover: The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy. Why did I acquiesce to reading it? My friend’s expression after the last page of the book, I guess. She was locked into her cloud of Why, How and Oh my gosh-es and thankfully, I took the initiative of dispelling her new found shock, for I discovered a new facet, a beautiful one (unlike the one Bhagat creates) of Indian story telling.
Roy’s The God of Small Things, is a dark and deeply entrenched tragedy, not a Greek one but one that crushes your heart into a million pieces. While the plot functions on multiple layers such as: India in the social division context, or that in the corrupted political context, if we view from a macroscopic lens. On a micro level, it is purely a story of fate- on the wrong road, on a highway to hell, perhaps? The themes make up the strong binder of all the pages that Roy lets out her soul in: Love (and incense, in a completely unconventional perspective), Death, guilt and blame, fear, political uprisings, societal tensions, insecurities, deceit and delusion, and most of all: the thin line between what is right and what is wrong, and who is the judge of it all. Unlike Chetan Bhagat’s incessant wastage of paper and ink, which shamefully I admit, many of my Indian friends call their ‘best reads ever’, Roy divulges into a completely heart wringing and candid story tale that takes place in Ayemenem, Kerala and Roy, being a childhood native, captivates the town’s cultural nuances and atmosphere too plausibly. Moreover, the plot progression is intriguing as it switches between different times in a non-chronological trend, through which, perhaps, Roy intends to share her ideology of how the clock doesn’t matter, the mystery doesn’t matter (since, life is all but mystery is a fact more than a saying), but the detail and the emotional backtracking and building does. Roy is gifted, no doubt about that. Through the eyes of two juvenile twins with a stormy childhood, Roy brews a story like no other, I can bet my bucks on it- on Roy’s inimitable writing style and her black as night honesty.
What is the most compelling trait of a writer acquainted with such a culturally rich backdrop? Maybe, the experiences. Maybe, the unusual nature of their storytelling. From as much as I can deduce, Arundhati Roy, Kiran Desai, Jhumpa Lahiri, Salman Rushdie, Chitra Banerjee even Khaled Hosseini share a quaint style of story telling, and this USP makes them transcend borders as we taste each country’s, that we might have never even set foot in, air and soil. Once upon a time, really is a magical portal, after all.
Note: Oh and I should mention to all my weak hearted or narrow minded, romcom preferring audience, this book is not for you. It is tragic and its beauty lies in its bluntness. Before, you choose to read it, brace yourself to ‘expect the unexpected’. To be honest, once the book claws you in, there’s no escaping from it and once you’re done with it, the idea is immortal in your mind and so is Arundhati Roy’s twisted land of fiction.
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