On a reckless evening when I could have just about done the craziest thing, I went to a library and got myself a membership. The regular vanilla that some people think I am (not without reasons), this was the most reckless thing-to-do that I could think of.
As a result, I treated myself to this new rush and made a list of books that I would like to read before I die. Since there is no possibility of attaching an exact date to that event, I started thinking - technically speaking it could be anytime now. I started with 'The God of small things' by Arundhati Roy.
I knew roughly the outline of the story and the cause that the book stands for. Ten years ago, when I read a passage of the book and wondered what it meant, I had the good sense to put it away. I had however put it down in my mind's 'read when you are older' list of books. Not because I would not understand the story, but because I could not enjoy the prose. A book, in my mind, is a piece of dark chocolate, one with 72% cocoa..something that has to be relished.
As I said, a social cause is weaved into the story - untouchability. As I tested waters with the first pages, I enjoyed the rich prose and the layered style of writing, the setting is in Kerala, there is liberal usage of malayam words and phrases. As I kept reading, I realised that it is a very dark tale indeed. It is the story of twins Rahel and Esthappen, their misfortunate life and the misfortunate lives of others in their family. all of their lives are muddled in despair and darkness. It is very disturbing to read and having to know the characters.
I have not completed the book, but it has left me with only sad and depressing images..A lecherous police officer who taps on a woman's breast with his stick as her two children watch, a spinster aunt who had never had anything in life to cheer for and thus enjoys others' miseries, husbands who beat their wives, for the kick of it, another who does not hesitate to push his wife into prostitution, children taught by their mother never to trust or love anyone easily, the low caste man who gets killed for the sole reason that he loved a woman from the upper caste, and the ultimate act of incest where the twins end up having sex with each other at the age of 31, having met after a long gap
I understand that the issue of untouchability had been addressed and probably the author was against untouchability and perhaps thats why she weaved such a disturbing tale around it. Now, why should we tell such dark and complicated tales to address our issues?? So that people read it and the awareness is spread that untouchability is indeed bad?? The book's prose is so intricate and complex that the people who appreciate it already have a very clear idea that untouchability is bad.. Even if they didnt know about it, there is really no need to tell them dark and shady stories to explain to them how bad untouchability actually is. Arundhati Roy, respecting their intelligence, could have just painted a bright banner that said 'Untouchability is a sin, It affects lives' and leave it at that.
All people who ever lived on the face of the earth have gone through their share of disturbing incidents in their lives. What is the necessity of reaffirming their back-of-the-mind belief that life is a bitch?? Yes, the writing is excellent, maybe we can call it art. But why does art has to be profanity? So glaring and so disturbing?
As I turned page after depressing page of the book, I kept looking at the face of the author that was printed at the back cover. How disturbed and distraughted should one be to express such depressing filth in a story? What ghosts have haunted this pretty lady that she wants other people to experience it as well?? Because she can really make us experience her book, such is her writing. plush and intricate. I found just one reason to read the book, but that does not necessarily mean that I will finish reading it. This is going to be the second book in my life that I never wanted to finish. And believe me, I have read my share of absolute trash, but have always completed reading them, for reasons I do not know..
Ok, call me shallow, call me a blockhead, call me boring, downright normal, someone who does not appreciate the complexities. But what the heck! why should I appreciate it if its complex?? Agreed, I appreciate Chetan Bhagat, but that does not go to say I do not appreciate Ayn Rand or Abdul Kalam's books. We live in a world that is stranger than fiction, it is dark, it is complex, it is disgusting, but why should we document and celebrate pain and muck? Isn't it best not prosed, taught and handed over for generations to come?