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The Ministry of Utmost Happiness

by Arundhati Roy

The Ministry of Utmost Happiness by Arundhati Roy X
The Ministry of Utmost Happiness by Arundhati Roy
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  • First Published:
    Jun 2017, 464 pages
    May 2018, 464 pages


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Book Reviewed by:
Poornima Apte
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Arumugam Nachimuthu

The ministry of utmost happiness
I can tell something about this book somewhat like I can tell what I have dreamed last night, you cannot remember everything but you remember things but you cannot completely tell what you have dreamed, partly it belongs to everyone, not only in the present but in the past and you cannot say the dream ended because it belong to the future man too. The reading of this book was like dreaming Dreams for ordinary people nothing, but for Freud it was everything and he relied on it. He made his whole career out of it. Every artist depends on his dreams for his career. Only in dreams he break himself into everybody and everybody into himself. Dreams gift life to out day life.

Dreams reveal and dreams bring justice but it needs to be interpreted as Dr.Freud interpreted. When you interpret your dreams, you interpret everybody els’s dreams too . you cannot claim ownership on your dreams. But you can claim ownership on your own interpretations only. But I don’t want to say it is selfish because it is your work but only interpretations are your work. I know in my dreams we are one. You are friend or foe in my daily life, day life, dreams reveal the reasons in a way that is really peculiar to our intellectual mind and reasoning that who we are to each other but sometimes it shocks our conscious mind.

We are history and carrying history in our body. We are the products of history. Hitler wasn’t completely self-made as much as he wasn’t completely history made. We have to play our roles comrade! But we are not puppets in the hands of history and if so, she wouldn’t have bred us. We came out of the womb of history and though our mothers are made responsible for it.

A story without heroes is a story of everybody. The way democratization of storytelling. Only a handful of authors have tried it that I came across. Name a few "The joy of city" by Dominique Lapierre, "The fine balance" by Rohinton Mistry. and now your ministry of utmost happiness. Such stories change how we look at our world esp. people who are carrying sad stories but have real life within it, but we miss because we always look up to successful people to guide our lives but we miss the stories of victims who are seeds of our new world that she captured them all in her story. We are all in the books and story and dreams which is not going end.

She says we have to pay the price for what we have done. Yes, not just within human boundary but beyond that what we have done to nature as a whole and as human beings also counts.

A personal account (everybody’s) of modern history of India.
Power Reviewer
Cloggie Downunder

a moving and powerful read.
“Their wounds were too old and too new, too different, and perhaps too deep, for healing. But for a fleeting moment, they were able to pool them like accumulated gambling debts and share the pain equally, without naming injuries or asking which was whose. For a fleeting moment they were able to repudiate the world they lived in and call forth another one, just as real.”

The Ministry of Utmost Happiness is the second novel by Booker Prize winning author, Arundhati Roy. The story begins with Aftab, whose confusion about what he was found relief at the Khwabgah, among other hijra. He became Anjum, and eventually she ran the Jannat Guest House (in its highly unusual location), a refuge for the quirky, the oppressed, the different.

Integral to the tale is S. Tilottama, real and adopted daughter of Maryam Ipe. Tilo’s story, and that of the three men who love her, is told not only by her, but by Dr Azad Bhartiya (fasting Free Indian), Biplab Desgupta (her ex-Intelligence Bureau landlord), and Musa Yeswi (elusive militant). Filling out the quirky cast are a paraven calling himself Saddam Hussain, Zainab the Bandicoot, Naga the journalist, a singing teacher, and an abandoned baby, to name just a few.

How all their lives intersect and how these lives are impacted upon by Government and policy, and in particular, the Kashmiri freedom struggles, is told using vignettes, anecdotes, loosely connected short stories, moral tales, memos, disjointed scraps, accounts that take detours and meander off on tangents. As with Rushdie, Seth and Mistry, this novel has that unmistakeable, essential Indian quality, in characters, in dialogue, in plot.

But here, moreso than in The God of Small Things, the fact that this is a novel by Arundhati Roy the social activist, is very much in evidence (as readers of her non-fiction works will attest) and thus includes illustrations of the many issues against which she rails. Some reviewers describe this novel as “preachy”; the causes are worthy, but readers may feel that is it is only a shade off being exactly that, and perhaps be forgiven for wishing that it was more novel, less moral tale.

Some of Roy’s descriptive prose, as with in The God of Small Things, is staggeringly beautiful, poetic and profound: “They understood of course that it was a dirge for a fallen empire whose international borders had shrunk to a grimy ghetto circumscribed by the ruined walls of an old city. And yes, they realised that it was also a rueful comment on Mulaqat Ali’s own straitened circumstances. What escaped them was that the couplet was a sly snack, a perfidious samosa, a warning wrapped in mourning, being offered with faux humility by an erudite man who had absolute faith in his listeners’ ignorance of Udru, a language which, like most of those who spoke it, was gradually being ghettoized.”

However, the vague and veiled references to certain personages, events and ideas which are, perhaps, obvious to those familiar with Indian current affairs, will go straight over the heads of other readers, the message will be lost or less than clear. There is humour, heartache, despair and hope, there is much cruelty but also abundant kindness, making it a moving and powerful read.
peter carr

What the hell is this all about ?
If you think you don't have enough work in your life, read this book. It feels like trying to sort out your attic. Obscure prose, hordes of dusty bits and pieces you have to wade through to get to the questionable moral in the far corner of the unlit room. Jumbles of unmemorable names, "clever " jumps back and forward in time, and a cast of grotesques that add nothing to the story. There's an old chest in one corner, stuffed with forced references to trans rights that feels as though it is crowbarred in to appeal to "modern" thinkers. only in the last quarter of the book does it start to feel like literature, and by then you will have lost the will to live.
Ursula Swamy

A highly-overated book - not literature at all
II recently read the novel The Ministry of Utmost Happiness by Arundhati Roy.
I found the book to be immature in its writing, poor prose and the stories within do not cohere. If it is magical realism then her writing needs to be vastly improved. I do not think she understands what fiction actually implies. Her non-fiction is probably better written.
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