Two decades after her debut book which won her the Booker Prize, the talented Indian author Arundhati Roy has yet again given us a novel “The Ministry of Utmost Happiness” to mesmerize ourselves in the divine aura of her creativity this week.
Like her debut novel “The Gods of Small World”, this novel is also directed towards social injustice and her struggle to stand against it. Her first novel which came out in 1997 sold 8 million copies, turning the young woman into literary sensation overnight. The fame however didn’t get to her in all the right ways.
She cut her hair short after she won the Booker Prize for her first novel and told The New York Times she didn’t want to be known “as some pretty woman who wrote a book”. She donated her prize money to a protest group in India.
Roy, who spent most of her last 20 years immersed in politics and raising her voice for social justice, just like her last book which was based on forbidden inter caste love in south India, this novel also has a touch of her own thoughts of the society’s dark side.
The book in her own way tackles gender issues and geopolitics such as the protagonist, Anjum, a hijra, or transwoman, who struggles to make a life for herself in Delhi. While there is Tilo, a bristly yet attractive architect turned activist, a character seems to be modeled on herself, and the three men who fall in love with her.
Subjected to so many tangled twists and turns, while reading this novel one would need a lot of concentration in order to stay aligned with the intricate stories. The book is a messy one yet you will be spellbound till the end.
Her lack of literary background stirred a lot of interest in her days living in a slum and working as an aerobics instructor. She was named one of People magazine’s most beautiful people.
Yet the edginess of Roy personality can be clearly seen through her novels. Being a strong supporter of Kashmiri separatist movement and against Hindu nationalists, Roy hs faced many charges such as obscenity and incensement which were later dropped. Yet, her struggle to fight for a better society and peace continues.
Her second book is a an amalgam of her last ten years and the problems and difficulties she faced due to the thin line of tolerance in her culture and society.
Roy’s “Ministry of Utmost Happiness” is the book to read this season and if you have missed out on “The Gods of Small Things” it’s your chance to visit your nearest book shop and find solace in this beautiful art work of the Indian muse.