Reaction 2 : The Ministry of Utmost Happiness /Arundhati Roy
(after reading 124 pages)
The novel has fifty characters, according to Jerry Pinto, a reviewer of this novel. I’ve yet to meet all of them, but some important characters have already appeared in my reading. The most interesting of them is Anjum, a transgender who is a Gujrat massacre survivor and lives in a house called Zannat(meaning paradise) illegally built by herself on the graveyard adjacent to Jama Masjid in Delhi. I was initially put off by such a premise, but I understand now she is the protagonist and is created with some serious agenda. In her I see bits of Arundhati Roy, the writer of this novel, who is also widely known for her activism. Gradually Anjum comes across as a fascinating character: practical, savvy, kind, insightful, humane, unpretentious, and “an astute political analyst.”
There is another interesting character — a young guy called Saddam Hossain who is actually a Hindu dalit, a resident in Anjum’s Zannat, who does all kinds of odd jobs to make a living, but all he wants is avenge his father’s death. A police officer, failing to extract his cut from his father, incited the mob to lynch him. Saddam Hossain is now trying to kill the police officer.
But what comes as hilarious to me are the real-time politicians disguised in such names as Trapped Rabbit(Manmohon Singh), Gujrat ki Lalla(Narendra Modi), Agarwal the accountant(Aravind Kejriwal). Salman Rushdie has used this trope in his novels, but Arundahati does it in more humorous and effective fashion.
Quite in sync, Anna Hazare’s historic movement finds a place in this novel too. I was a keen watcher when the movement was going on, and used to understand it in as many ways as humanly possible. But I gain the real perspective only today reading about it in this novel. So a novel has the power to enlighten you the right way. And it’s not didactic or cliche. It gets to be way more interesting as I proceed with my reading.
In fact I never imagined Arundhati could be so funny. I laughed out loud over some passages during today’s reading session. For me it was extremely healing and satisfying.