The Ministry of Utmost Happiness is Arundhati Roy’s second novel written twenty years later. The author, whose first novel The God of Small Things won the Booker Prize in 1997, in this new novel tells a fragmented story, the story of India, unhappiness and despair.
The Ministry of Utmost Happiness is a novel that spreads from the busy streets of India to the sparkling roads of new cities, from mountains to cemeteries and all sorts of places. The Ministry of Utmost Happiness begins when Anjum, one of the hijras considered as the third gender in India, goes to a hijra house. While Anjum gets used to his life here in a short time, when his life gets a little more complicated, he takes a cemetery to his home.
Of course, this cemetery attracts extraordinary people like himself, like a magnet. In this house in the cemetery, orphans, activists, animals, Kashmiri freedom fighters and other hijras such as Anjum are living; Anyone who was previously unwanted and unable to fit anywhere can gather in this house and live in peace with their own personalities. Then, elsewhere in the story, we meet the strange and unforgettable Tilo and one of the men in love with him, Musa. And more.
I read the first parts of The Ministry of Utmost Happiness with such great pleasure that I finished the first two hundred pages in a snap. However, later The Ministry of Utmost Happiness gradually became unreadable for me. After a certain point, I could neither warm up to the characters I read nor show interest in what happened.
The reason for this is that nothing happened throughout the entire book. Well, of course, something is happening, but since there is no continuation to the stories when you connect to a story, the author talks about something completely different in a completely different place. As I read the end of The Ministry of Utmost Happiness fuming with anger, I could not help but think about this; I wish Arundhati Roy had taken two or three hundred pages out of The Ministry of Utmost Happiness, and a more profound, more enjoyable book would have come out.
Unfortunately, The Ministry of Utmost Happiness is not a book to be loved or read with pleasure in its current form. If you are interested in India’s present and would like to read what Roy wrote, check it out anyway. But, don’t expect much from it.
The Ministry of Utmost Happiness
A dazzling, moving new novel by the internationally celebrated author of The God of Small Things
The Ministry of Utmost Happiness takes us on an intimate journey of many years across the Indian subcontinent–from the cramped neighborhoods of Old Delhi and the roads of the new city to the mountains and valleys of Kashmir and beyond, where war is peace and peace is war.
It is an aching love story and a decisive remonstration, a story told in a whisper, in a shout, through unsentimental tears and sometimes with a bitter laugh. Each of its characters is indelibly, tenderly rendered. Its heroes are people who have been broken by the world they live in and then rescued, patched together by acts of love–and by hope.
The tale begins with Anjum–who used to be Aftab–unrolling a threadbare Persian carpet in a city graveyard she calls home. We encounter the odd, unforgettable Tilo and the men who loved her–including Musa, sweetheart and ex-sweetheart, lover and ex-lover; their fates are as entwined as their arms used to be and always will be. We meet Tilo’s landlord, a former suitor, now an intelligence officer posted to Kabul. And then we meet the two Miss Jebeens: the first a child born in Srinagar and buried in its overcrowded Martyrs’ Graveyard; the second found at midnight, abandoned on a concrete sidewalk in the heart of New Delhi.
As this ravishing, deeply humane novel braids these lives together, it reinvents what a novel can do and can be. The Ministry of Utmost Happiness demonstrates on every page the miracle of Arundhati Roy’s storytelling gifts.
Arundhati Roy (born November 24, 1961) is an Indian novelist, author of The God of Small Things, for which she won the Booker Prize.
Arundhati Roy was born in Shillong, Meghalaya to a Keralite Syrian Christian mother and a Bengali Hindu father. She spent her childhood in Aymanam in Kerala. She left Kerala for Delhi at age 16, and embarked on a bohemian lifestyle, staying in a small hut with a tin roof and making a living selling empty beer bottles. She then proceeded to study architecture at the Delhi School of Architecture.
Arundhati met her film-maker husband in 1984, under whose influence she moved into films. She acted in the role of a village girl in the award-winning movie Massey Sahib, and wrote the screenplays for In Which Annie Gives It Those Ones and Electric Moon.
She began writing The God of Small Things in 1992 and finished it in 1996. She received half-a-million pounds in advances, and rights to the book were sold in 21 countries. The book is semi-autobiographical and a major part captures her childhood experiences in Aymanam.
Roy is also a well known peace activist. One of her first essays was in response to India’s testing of nuclear weapons in Pokhran, Rajasthan. The essay, titled The End of Imagination, is a critique against the Indian government’s nuclear policies. It was published in her collection “The Cost of Living,” in which she also begins her crusade against India’s massive hydroelectric dam project. Since that time she has devoted herself solely to non-fiction and politics, publishing two more collections of essays as well as working for humanist causes.
In 2002 she was convicted of contempt of court by the Supreme Court in New Delhi for accusing the court of attempting to silence protests against the Narmada Dam Project, but received only a symbolic sentence of one day in prison. Roy was awarded the Sydney Peace Prize in May, 2004, for her work in social campaigns and advocacy of non-violence.
Reading this book contributed to these challenges: