Reaction 3 : The Ministry of Utmost Happiness/Arundhati Roy
Of course, it’s a big, sprawling novel and the setting is not really Jama Masjid or Delhi, but the whole of India. And you get it soon that she is much more interested in painting India in its real color than the characters she imports one by one. Characters are mere props for her messages.
So ineviably some elite characters weigh in: Nagaraj Hariharan, a radical intellectual-turned- journalist- turned Intelligence’s mole in the press; Biplab Dasgupta, a top honcho in central intelligence and S.Tilottama, a version of Arundahati Roy herself. This is a long chapter about their connection, disconnection and re-connection in their different avatars across time and space under different circumstances. It’s almost a love triangle story except that it does not entertain and is hugely linked to the horrors of ongoing insurgence of Kashmir.
This narrative is followed by some journal entries, and then a sample of work-in-progress of Kashmiri-English alphabet. This is how she fleshes out Tilottama’s character in her unique way.
Yes, it hinders your reading experience, but Arundhati doesn’t care. She flouts all the rules of MFA teaching: she tells way more than she shows and jumps from one subject to another as if to shock the reader. But she is compelling. She enchants the reader with her magical language, ideas and worldview. She is simply unputdownable.