A patchwork of too many narratives carefully put together, Arundhati Roy’s Ministry of Utmost Happiness is a heavy duty paradise for deep thinking readers. An array of characters and how their lives are intertwined in different layers will leave you on the edge of recurring emotions.
The book starts with Anjum growing up to discover her tendencies and behaviors which, in Indian society is associated with a hijra. She lives harmoniously with other eunuchs of Khwabgah in Delhi. One such time, on her return from Gujarat, she gets stuck in a massacre of Hindu pilgrims in the state and the immediate hate of the government towards the Muslim.
From there we travel to Kashmir where the never ending war between Pakistan and India is made a business and the how the army is involved in maintaining the animosity for the same purpose. There we experience on and off flashbacks and present scenes placed immaculately that develops the parallel plots of the book. Here we get to experience the lives lived by friends Musa, Tilo, Naga and Biplab.
Arundhati Roy is very particular in bringing in a sense of magic in core realism. Being an activist herself, the influences are quite relevant. For example, the character of Dr. Azad Bharatiya who was sketched as a protester, he established his nest of revolution in front of the Jantar Mantar. The newsletter “News and Views” that he has been running for 10 years was given as much importance as the personal journey through the politics faced by Major Amrik Singh.
Each character is bound to make a strong mark in the reader’s mind and it will definitely linger for long. The book is a definitive and ambitious work of Arundhati Roy that will picture the political turmoil of India in her well researched use of words.
Some people might find it disappointing and unnecessarily elongated. At times, the transitions make it hard to recall the past events and link them to the present narratives. Almost excessive sub-plots could have been avoided. But with that said, the author still managed to impress her fan-base and gained a new one out here.