The God of small things by Arundhati Roy

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Arundhati Roy

“As it is said that the few hours can affect the outcome of whole lifetimes, and when they do those few dozens hours, like the salvaged remains of a burned clock must be resurrected from the ruins and examined.”

To live is to love, to love is to live. Most often we come across stories that gives us a perfect blend of life and fiction. Draped with childhood trauma ‘the god of small things’ by Arundhati Roy is yet another classic tale to life and passion.

With this, the book also raises severe questions on casteism and mental health. The story unfolds in a small town of Kerala, a call to the informed reader’s a profound yet intricating sense of divine stylized world. In this dark world revolve the story of two siblings who challenges the so called ‘love laws’ of India.With this book author Arundhati Roy was surrounded by controversy and criticism. Perhaps it was the bending reality of the novel or a threat to the orthodox minds, that the story was not openly accepted by several self-proclaimed readers. But for the remaining, ‘the god of small things’ is a masterpiece in the history of Indian literature and Arundhati Roy lies central to that history.

Arundhati: the goddess of controversial quotes

“Pity the nation that has to silence its writers for speaking their minds. Pity the nation that needs to jail those who ask for justice, while communal killers, mass murderers, corporate scamsters, looters, rapists, and those who prey on the poorest of the poor, roam free.” – Arundhati Roy.

Born in 1961 in Shillong, Meghalaya, India, Arundhati started writing from a young age. Her mother was a Malayali Syrian Christian women’s rights activist from Kerala and her father was a Bengali Hindu tea plantation manager. When she was two, her parents divorced, and young Arundhati was sent to her maternal grandfather in Ooty. When she turned five, the family shifted back to Kerala where her mother had started a school. Arundhati Roy earned an architecture degree from School of Planning and Architecture, Delhi.

Arundhati roy

Roy became a sensation when her book The God of Small Things was released in 1997. But before that she worked in television and movies. She wrote the screenplays for ‘In Which Annie Gives It Those Ones’ (1989) and ‘Electric Moon’ in 1992. She first attracted attention in 1994 when she criticised Shekhar Kapur’s film Bandit Queen, which was based on the life of Phoolan Devi. She charged Kapur for exploiting both Devi’s life and its meaning.

In 1992 she started her first manuscript ‘the god of small things’ and completed the first copy by 1997. The book in terms is a semi-autobiographical depiction of Roy’s childhood experiences in Ayemenem. With the publish of the book, she rose to international fame. Her work received the 1997 Booker Prize for Fiction and was listed as one of The New York Times Notable Books of the Year. The book was a huge hit and Roy managed to sell it in 18 major countries in just a month of its initial release. The God of Small Things received stellar reviews in major American newspapers such as The New York Times.  

But with this popularity also came criticism from the opiniated people of India

There are many facets to the controversy surrounding The God of Small Things. While the book portrays Roy’s Anti-Communist views but perhaps it was inter caste affair in the book that landed Roy in controversy.

A closer look at the book and you may realise that it’s a kind of book that you ‘live’ and not just read. It challenges the abysmally small, the compressed and beaten down Adivasis of India. With each page branches out the complex reality of an average divorced mother and her take on two children wrapped in a love affair with a servant from a different caste. The book speaks multiple languages of love and define people with different abilities and characters. It’s especially the metaphors in the book that etched to our memory and define the book a masterpiece by Roy in Indian literature.

Arundhati roy

Set in a town of Ayemenem, the story revolves around two siblings- Rahel and Estha. Separated for 23 years after an unfaithful incident of childhood, Estha and Rahel are reunited under controversial circumstances. But it isn’t the controversy that holds you captive, instead it’s the unnatural yet a realistic life experience that makes you bound to the letters of this book. Though the book is based on the reunion of the duo, the narrative takes place mostly in the past reconstructing the illicit love affair of their mother, death of a cousin and a murdered lover- Velutha.

Interrogating the colonial history of India, Roy’s take on ‘The god of small things’ is majorly the caste system that divides people of India. Velutha belongs to an untouchable caste and works as a servant of their family. Her mother, Ammu and Velutha embarks a love affair following which Estha and Rahel are entangled in the death of their cousin Sophie. The tragic events unfold even darker secrets when the affair of their mother is revealed and Velutha is murdered for his anti-colonial actions. The set of course separates the siblings and Rahel is sent to America. When the now adults’ siblings meet after the dire separation of 23 years, they engage in incestuous events upon which the book landed in controversy.

“The God of Small Things” is possibly one of the most remarkable works of Arundhati Roy. The time jumps between past, and present were masterfully executed so as not to impact the rhythm of the tale. The genius of this book is the way the main characters were cultivated, and such that it is possible to empathize with even the antagonists.

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