The Ministry of Utmost Happiness by Arundhati Roy [Book Review]

The Ministry of Utmost Happiness by Arundhati Roy book review
The Ministry of Utmost Happiness by Arundhati Roy

Title : The Ministry of Utmost Happiness

Author : Arundhati Roy

ISBN : 9780670089635

Publisher : Penguin Random House India

Genre : Comtemporary Fiction

Pages : 464

Source : Self

Rating : 1 star

While I write this review, I am simultaneously thinking if there is a way to give a negative rating- negative because the 2nd half of the book ruins all the charm and exuberance that I felt for the unearthly prose and surreal analogies in the 1st half of the book. I wonder why Ms. Roy didn’t go ahead with another non-fiction if all she had to do was to push her propaganda with a fiction that she came up after 20 years of the legendary “God of Small Things

The first half of the book narrates the story of a transgender Anjum, her trials & tribulations as he transitions from Aftab to Anjum, her life and struggles as a “hijra” in contemporary Delhi and her coming out of age when she finally chooses to be independent and make a graveyard her permanent dwelling. Even in this half, Ms. Roy leaves no stone unturned to propagate her political beliefs- addressing Modi as “Gujarat ka Lalla”, incongruous addition of 2002 Gujarat riots- calling those who burnt the train as ‘miscreants’ while the Hindus become ‘Hindu Terrorists’. However, this half still mostly revolves around Anjum’s life, her maternal feelings and finally her independence.

Come the 2nd half and the reader is introduced with the Kashmir issue and this is where Ms. Roy completely loses it and pours all her hatred for the Indian Army on the pages. The prose becomes extremely chaotic, interspersed with multiple anecdotes of army’s cruelty in Kashmir and for hundreds of pages, the story seems to go nowhere. The reader is made to believe that all the army has done is killing innocent civilians.

I had been anxiously waiting for this book, had pre-booked it months ahead in advance (and hence got an author-signed copy) but now I feel sorry that I have to abandon this book. 20 years after The God Of Small Things, Roy is more of an activist rather than an author and this clearly shows up in the book. Expecting another path-breaking narrative from her was a gross mistake from my side.

Get a copy from Amazon here: The Ministry of Utmost Happiness 

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Who Me, Poor? By Gayatri Jayaraman [Book Review]

Who me poor? Gayatri Jayaraman: Book Review
Who Me, Poor? By Gayatri Jayaraman

Title : Who Me? Poor?

Author : Gayatri Jayaraman

ISBN : 9789386432230

Publisher : Bloomsbury India

Genre : Non-fiction

Pages : 192

Source : Self

Rating : 4 stars

 

 

 

As Indians, we often relate ‘poverty’ to rural and bucolic. The moment we encounter the word ‘poverty’, images of emaciated poor people living in mud houses in unhygienic surroundings envelop our mind.

Who me, Poor?” by Gayatri Jayaraman captures something we all know about, still feel awkward and uneasy to discuss even if it’s happening to us or our closed ones- Urban Poverty. The book has multiple first person anecdotes, ‘struggler’ stories and case studies of urban people who are cutting on their food, living standards and health just for the hope of making it big someday. All anecdotes are followed by a thorough analysis by the author on the reasons behind this phenomenon- what drives the millennials to succumb to pressure and live life on debts, loans and credits. The role played by evolution of cashless economy, corporate work culture, expensive degrees, overemphasis on ‘networking’, in the exacerbation of this menace has also been clearly analyzed.

The book discusses a much less talked about but an inescapable menace that is making its headway (infact, has already made) in Indian urban fabric. The author has done a commendable job in putting together relevant anecdotes and case studies, though the analysis part has turned out to be a bit complex. A few sentences might seem unnecessarily intertwined, thus undermining the sole purpose that the book is supposed to deliver- acquainting the reader about the phenomenon of Urban Poverty in India and its various manifestations.

All in all, the book is an impressive and well-researched work and I look forward to read more from the author in future.

Buy yourself a copy from Amazon here-  Who me, Poor? by Gayatri Jayaraman

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Hotel Iris by Yoko Ogawa [Book Review]

Hotel Iris Yoko Ogawa Book Review

Title : Hotel Iris

Author : Yoko Ogawa

ISBN : 978-0099548997

Publisher : Vintage

Genre : Mystery

Pages : 176

Source : Self

Rating : 4 stars

 

Yoko Ogawa is the third Japanese author that I read (after Murakami & Ishiguro) and I must mention that her prose is captivating and powerful and puts together quite an imagery.

Hotel Iris is a sado-masochistic tale where a 17 year old girl Mari finds herself drawn towards a middle-aged ‘translator’, who knows his ways well to provide her ‘pleasure through pain & humiliation’ until the situation climaxes into a devastating end!

The relationship between Mari and the translator oscillates between being a tender one with mutual attraction blooming between them on one side, and the extremely graphic description of BDSM, voyeurism associated with humiliation and afflicting pain on the other.

Hotel Iris is one of those books that unabashedly describe the deviant (but consensual) sexual behavior and this novella is a meditation on how two people, who are somewhat neglected in their own platitudinous life, find solace in each other while engaging in acts that they find mutually satisfying. While reading the book, I was frequently reminded that how the plot can at best be described as a fusion between Lolita (Vladimir Nabokov) & Fifty Shades of Grey, but Ogawa’s prose is mature & distinct enough to paint a unique literary picture.

The ending of the book is abrupt and left with quite a few unanswered questions but the way it kept me hooked till the end in spite of the extremely graphic description of sado-masochism (of which I am not a great fan), gave the cliched feeling of ” a satisfying read”. Now I am looking forward to read more works by the author.

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