Opinion| The God of Small Things

Creative Corner

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From the moment I began reading it, I was blown away. I am still in shock after reading it. Two kids are trying to unravel the mystery of illicit love, broken families, and horrible betrayals in this tale. India's complex social structure, such as its forbidden sex and violent spousal abuse, makes it enticing.

Reading Roy's unique prose is an engaging and enjoyable experience. There are two twins, Rahel and Esthappen, who are trying to figure out what caused their family's tragedy in Karala, Southern India. The permanence of Ammu's sorrow shocks them both. In the event that their mother returns to the family home, the children become resentful and their mother is stigmatized.

In this book, you will be carried along on a journey; you will share in the joy and the sorrow of the characters. There is an intriguing beginning, a breathtaking middle, and a surprising ending.

Here are some amazing excerpts from this book:

But when they made love he was offended by her eyes. They behaved as though they belonged to someone else. Someone watching. Looking out of the window at the sea. At a boat in the river. Or a passerby in the mist in a hat.
He was exasperated because he didn’t know what that look meant. He put it somewhere between indifference and despair. He didn’t know that in some places, like the country that Rahel came from, various kinds of despair competed for primacy. And that personal despair could never be desperate enough. That something happened when personal turmoil dropped by at the wayside shrine of the vast, violent, circling, driving, ridiculous, insane, unfeasible, public turmoil of a nation. That Big God howled like a hot wind, and demanded obeisance. Then Small God (cozy and contained, private and limited) came away cauterized, laughing numbly at his own temerity. Inured by the confirmation of his own inconsequence, he became resilient and truly indifferent. Nothing mattered much. Nothing much mattered. And the less it mattered, the less it mattered. It was never important enough. Because Worse Things had happened. In the country that she came from, poised forever between the terror of war and the horror of peace, Worse Things kept happening.
So Small God laughed a hollow laugh, and skipped away cheerfully. Like a rich boy in shorts. He whistled, kicked stones. The source of his brittle elation was the relative smallness of his misfortune. He climbed into people’s eyes and became an exasperating expression.”

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…the secret of the Great Stories is that they have no secrets. The Great Stories are the ones you have heard and want to hear again. The ones you can enter anywhere and inhabit comfortably. They don’t deceive you with thrills and trick endings. They don’t surprise you with the unforeseen. They are as familiar as the house you live in. Or the smell of your lover’s skin. You know how they end, yet you listen as though you don’t. In the way that although you know that one day you will die, you live as though you won’t. In the Great Stories you know who lives, who dies, who finds love, who doesn’t. And yet you want to know again.That is their mystery and their magic.

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Writers imagine that they cull stories from the world. I’m beginning to believe that vanity makes them think so. That it’s actually the other way around. Stories cull writers from the world. Stories reveal themselves to us. The public narrative, the private narrative — they colonize us. They commission us. They insist on being told. Fiction and nonfiction are only different techniques of storytelling. For reasons that I don’t fully understand, fiction dances out of me, and nonfiction is wrenched out by the aching, broken world I wake up to every morning.

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And when we look in through the windows, all we see are shadows. And when we try and listen, all we hear is a whispering. And we cannot understand the whispering, because our minds have been invaded by a war. A war that we have both won and lost. The very worst sort of war. A war that captures dreams and re-dreams them. A war that has made us adore our conquerors and despise ourselves.

“Biology designed the dance. Terror timed it. Dictated the rhythm with which their bodies answered each other. As though they already knew that for each tremor of pleasure they would pay with an equal measure of pain. As though they knew that how far they went would be measured against how far they would be taken.”
“Anything’s possible in Human Nature,” Chacko said in his Reading Aloud voice. Talking to the darkness now, suddenly insensitive to his little fountain-haired niece. “Love. Madness. Hope. Infinite joy.”
Of the four things that were Possible in Human Nature, Rahel thought that Infinite Joy sounded the saddest. Perhaps because of the way Chacko said it.
Infinite Joy. With a church sound to it. Like a sad fish with fins all over.”
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Once the quietness arrived, it stayed and spread in Estha. It reached out of his head and enfolded him in its swampy arms. It rocked him to the rhythm of an ancient, fetal heartbeat. It sent its stealthy, suckered tentacles inching along the insides of his skull, hoovering the knolls and dells of his memory; dislodging old sentences, whisking them off the tip of his tongue. It stripped his thoughts of the words that described them and left them pared and naked. Unspeakable. Numb. And to an observer therefore, perhaps barely there. Slowly, over the years, Estha withdrew from the world. He grew accustomed to the uneasy octopus that lived inside him and squirted its inky tranquilizer on his past. Gradually the reason for his silence was hidden away, entombed somewhere deep in the soothing folds of the fact of it.
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Isabella and Louisa Fischer
When she looked at herself in her wedding photographs, Ammu felt the woman that looked back at her was someone else. A foolish jewelled bride. Her silk sunset-coloured sari shot with gold. Rings on every finger. White dots of sandalwood paste over her arched eye-brows. Looking at herself like this, Ammu’s soft mouth would twist into a small, bitter smile at the memory — not of the wedding itself so much as the fact that she had permitted herself to be so painstakingly decorated before being led to the gallows. It seemed so absurd. So futile. Like polishing firewood.
Memory was that woman on the train. Insane in the way she sifted through dark things in a closet and emerged with the most unlikely ones — a fleeting look, a feeling. The smell of smoke. A windscreen wiper. A mother’s marble eyes. Quite sane in the way she left huge tracts of darkness veiled. Unremembered.
She had never before met a man who spoke of the world — of what it was, and how it came to be, or what he thought would become of it — in the way in which other men she knew discussed their jobs, their friends or their weekends at the beach.
Being with Chacko made Margaret feel as though her soul had escaped from the narrow confines of her island country into the vast, extravagant spaces of his. He made her feel as though the world belonged to them — as though it lay before them like an opened frog on a dissecting table, begging to be examined.
In the year she knew them, before they were married, she discovered a little magic in herself, and for a while felt like a blithe genie released from her lamp. She was perhaps too young to realize that what she assumed was her love for Chacko was actually a tentative, timorous, acceptance of herself.
Glanced up and caught Ammu’s gaze. Centuries telescoped into one evanescent moment. History was wrong-footed, caught off guard. Sloughed off like an old snakeskin. Its marks , its scars its wounds from old wars and the walking backwards days all fell away. In its absence it left an aura, a palpable shimmering that was as plain as water in a river or the sun in the sky. As plain to feel the heat on a hot day, or the tug of a fish on a taut line. So obvious that no-one noticed.
In that brief moment, Velutha looked up and saw things that he hadn’t seen before. Things that had been out of bounds so far, obscured by histor’s blinkers.
…This knowing slid into him cleanly, like the sharp edge of a knife. Cold and hot at once. It only took a moment.
Ammu saw that he saw. She looked away. He did too. History’s fiends returned to claim them. To rewrap them in its old scarred pelt and drag them back to where they really lived. Where the Love Laws lay down who should be loved. And how. And how much.
“After Ammu died (after the last time she came back to Ayemenem, swollen with cortisone and a rattle in her chest that sounded like a faraway man shouting), Rahel drifted. From school to school. She spent her holidays in Ayemenem, largely ignored by Chacko and Mammachi (grown soft with sorrow, slumped in their bereavement like a pair of drunks in a toddy bar) and largely ignoring Baby Kochamma. In matters related to the raising of Rahel, Chacko and Mammachi tried, but couldn’t. They provided the care (food, clothes, fees), but withdrew the concern.
The Loss of Sophie Mol stepped softly around the Ayemenem House like a quiet thing in socks. It hid in books and food. In Mammachi’s violin case. In the scabs of the sores on Chacko’s shins that he constantly worried. In his slack, womanish legs.
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Attributions: The quoted passages are taken from The God of Small Things (1997), the debut novel of Indian writer Arundhati Roy

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Muhammad Nasrullah Khan is the publisher of Creative Corner. His short stories and poems are well-recognized internationally for his unique style. His creative work has appeared in Adbusters, Evergreen review, Indiana Voice Journal, Newtopia Magazine, Gowanus Books,Offcourse literary Journal University at Albany, The Raven Chronicles, and many others. His book is available on Amazon at: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08D7WZXVL

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