Arundhati Roy’s – The ministry of utmost happiness.

Review by Devika Nair
Arundhati Roy's - The ministry of utmost happiness.

How to tell a shattered story?
By slowly becoming everybody.
By slowly becoming everything

Arundhati Roy portrays the contemporary India and Pakistan through her novel. Through the novel’s plots and sub plots we witness the never ending conflict in the state of Kashmir and the minority communities in Delhi. There are several metaphors used in the novel by Roy in order to explain the Indian society, the religious hatred and corrupt politicians. It touches the issue of caste, divisions based on gender and religion, grief and loss with the story of Aftab, a transgender, who later becomes Anjum, and raises a child, Zainab. Her life traumas make her shift to her family graveyard. It comes to be known as The Jannet Guesthouse, a home for the estranged and miss-fit, where no-one is turned away. A home which supported each other, to bring up a baby without the need for blood ties or religious divisions. Anjum’s Ministry of Utmost Happiness is built on a graveyard, inhabited by minorities and outsiders and denotes the symbol of hope, peace and compassion amidst war between Pakistan and India for Kashmir. Through Anjum’s life we experience the struggles of a ‘hijra’ in the Indian society, where the transgender centre feels more like home to them instead of their parental home, this conveys the extremity and thoughts on how they are being accepted in the society and how families too disregard them after knowing their identity. This book has received several criticisms as well, as Roy lays down India’s most important social and political issues from the plight of Hijras to Naxalites to Kashmir.  

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