Reaction 4: The Ministry of Utmost Happiness /Arundhati Roy

I was not prepared for the storyline to take me to Kashmir, but it was a delectable surprise. Musa Yeswi, Tilo’s classmate and boyfriend in architecture class, reappears as a militant, though of a different, humane kind(not much convincing though) and we now know that Tilo had been in touch with him all through her eighteen-year-long married life. Meanwhile, Musa was married to another woman and had a little daughter, Miss Jebeen, but both were killed by a bullet when they were watching a martyr being carried along, standing from their balcony.

Arundhati Roy has built up a formidable narrative on the insurrection of Kashmir, taking in all the nuances and details of the militants and the State and the people long since involved in an endlessly dragging and filthy fight. Of course her empathy lies with the people and some militants, and she sounds subversive, but her main focus is the terror the State has unleashed on a population. She writes about it fiercely, powerfully, without any fear or prejudice, and always with a sense of history and civilization.

Let me quote a little from her inimitable text.

“Tourists flew out. Journalists flew in. Honeymooners flew out. Soldiers flew in. Women flocked around police-stations and army camps, holding up a forest of thumbed-up, dog-eared passport-sized photographs grown soft with tears. Please sir, have you seen my boy anywhere? Have you seen my husband? Has my brother by any chance passed through your hands? And the Sirs swelled their chests and bristled their moustaches and played with their medals and narrowed their eyes to assess them, to see which one’s despair would be worth converting into corrosive hopes.(I’ll see what I can do)and what the hope would be worth to whom.(A fee? A feast? A fuck? A truckload of walnuts?)”