A Book review on “God of small things”

by / Monday, 28 July 2014 / Published in Uncategorized
god of small things

Arundhati Roy weaves a poignant story about the loss of innocence and the far-reaching devastation caused in the aftermath of one tragic event. She examines every character with genuine warmth, their motivations, insecurities and most importantly, their unfulfilled dreams, the definitive universal human tragedy. The story unfolds the lives of people in Kerala who are the captives of Communism, the caste system, and the Keralite Syrian Christian way of life. It embarks on the journey of the dizyotic twins Rahel and Esthappen (Estha), the children of Ammu Ipe. Rahel and Esthappen (Estha) are seven year old fraternal twins. They are living in Ayemenem with their mother Ammu ,brother Chacko, their grandmother Mammachi and their great-aunt Baby Kochamma. Their father Baba lives in Calcutta. Ammu left him when the twins were two years old. The family is expecting the arrival of Margaret and Sophie Mol, Chacko’s ex-wife and daughter, who are living in England. Since Margaret’s second husband Joe had died in a car accident, Chacko invites them to spend Christmas in India in order to get over the loss. When they arrive, Sophie Mol is the centre of attention and not the twins. So Rahel and Estha stroll around on the river bank and find an old boat. With Velutha’s help they repair it and frequently cross the river to visit an abandoned house on the other side. Velutha is an Untouchable, whom Ammu and Chacko have known since their childhood. Their family has employed him as a carpenter and mechanic in their pickle factory. As days pass by, Ammu starts getting attracted to Velutha. As it is not possible for an Untouchable to have a relationship with somebody from a superior caste, they have to keep their meetings secret. But one night Velutha’s father comes to know about them and, feeling humiliated by his son’s overbearing behaviour, reports everything to Mammachi and Baby Kochamma. As a consequence they lock up Ammu in her room. There Rahel and Estha find her and, through the locked door, ask her why she’s being locked up. As she is angry and desperate, she blames the two children saying that without them she would be free and asks them to leave her alone. Hurt and confused they decide two run away and stay at the abandoned house. But Sophie discovers the twins’ plan and demands to be taken along. While the three are crossing the river, which has risen from heavy rainfall, their boat capsizes. Rahel and Estha are able to reach the other shore but Sophie cannot swim and is carried away by the current. After a long search for Sophie, the twins go to the abandoned house and fall asleep on its veranda. Neither do they see Velutha, who is sleeping on the veranda nor does he notice the twins’ arrival. Earlier that night, Velutha had visited the house of Ammu’s family, not knowing that their affair had been discovered. When he arrived Mammachi insults him and chases him off. In the morning the children’s absence is noticed. Then they receive the message that Sophie Mol has been found dead by the river. Baby Kochamma goes to the police and wrongly accuses Velutha of attempting to rape Ammu and kidnapping the children. When the police find Velutha sleeping on the veranda of the abandoned house, they beat him up so severely that he almost dies. The twins wake up and observe the whole scene. At the police station they are forced by Baby Kochamma to confirm the wrong statement which she has made. In the following night Velutha dies in prison. After Sophie Mol’s funeral Ammu and the twins have to leave the family’s house because Chacko, who manipulated by Baby Kochamma,who accuses them of being responsible for Sophie Mol’s death. Estha is sent to his father in Calcutta where he attends school and later college.He becomes completely detached and stops talking completely. Ammu is forced to leave Rahel in Ayemenem in order to look for employment. But Ammu is not able to earn enough for a living and she dies of bad health a few years later alone in a hotel room. Rahel returns to Ayemenem at the age of 31. She hasn’t seen Estha since they were separated after Sophie Mol’s funeral. She had married an American and moved with him to Boston. After their divorce she has been working to make a living. Now Rahel returns to Ayemenem because she wants to see Estha, who has already returned to their family’s house. During his stay in Calcutta he someday stopped speaking. After spending a whole day together in Ayemenem, Rahel and Estha, sister and brother realise that no one understands them except each other. It is understood that are still deeply hurt by the events that happened long ago. What hurts the most is not the intensity of the characters’ suffering, but the fact that it is extremely commonplace, their suffering. It demonstrates how all caste-based violence is ecological, based on fear, the strange fear the powerful have for the powerless. Us and them At the end of it, what I got from the book was that though the Really Big Things might be screwed up, most of the times the Small Things more than make up for it.

Pragathi Kulkarni
III Year (IT)

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