Giving a Voice to the Voiceless

Arundhati Roy’s The Ministry of Utmost Happiness is a poignant, shattered story

Giving a Voice to the Voiceless
Photo by Joel Muniz on Unsplash

Arundhati Roy’s The Ministry of Utmost Happiness is a poignant, shattered story

Every once in a while, you come across a book that leaves you breathless, your heart shattered, and yet surging with hope. A book written straight from the heart that makes you feel that this is everything. That no other story will ever come close.

Arundhati Roy’s second work of fiction, The Ministry of Utmost Happiness, was one such novel for me. From the time I read The God of Small Things, I have been an ardent admirer of Roy’s poetic prose, her unabashed honesty that shines through her brilliant characters, and her ability to rip a reader’s heart out of their chest, twist it raw, and leave it back where it belonged.

Ah, I am not exaggerating. That is how this book made me feel. That is just how much it touched me.

I took time in reading this book, but every second spent leafing through the pages was worth the investment.

This is a beautiful, beautiful story. Arundhati Roy is a master is what she does — crafting characters of such intricate details, that you cannot help but fall in love with their imperfections, their beliefs, the mistakes they commit and the way they see the world.

Living Without A Voice

Image: Goodreads

On the surface of it, this is the story of those people nobody else will write about.

It is about the eunuchs who beg for money at streetlights, glass bangles jangling loudly at their wrists as they clap their hands.

About the men and women silently protesting in Delhi’s Jantar Mantar, hope fading as their hair turns grey, with no word from the people in power.

About the women who want babies and can’t have them, and the ones who don’t, but can.

It is about living on the fringes of a country as huge and diverse as India, and knowing that probably your voice will never be heard. But that does not mean you will stop crying for aid.

About the Indian society that has been poisoned by a history of corrupt politicians, religious hatred, and the overflowing rivers of denied justice — all for the sake of a “greater good”. Much the same way vultures are killed when they feast on dead cows that have been fed with diclofenac — a medicine to enhance the milk-producing capacity, acting as poison for the unsuspecting birds.

“Need was a warehouse that could accommodate a considerable amount of cruelty.”

A Shattered Story

This book belongs to Anjum who struggled for acceptance and a place to call home all her life. Her story is heart-rending, how despite being a transgender, it is her identity as a Muslim that ultimately becomes her undoing.

It belongs to Tilo who fell in love with the wrong man and had to spend her days with a terrible secret weighing down her chest. Tilo, who belonged to several worlds and yet belonged to no man.

To Garson Hobart who, in spite of everything telling him against it, loved one woman all his life. Whose real name meant “revolution”, but it was his identity as Garson that caused the actual revolution.

To Naga who kept moving from person to person searching for happiness, not knowing that the key was held by a woman he had learned to live without. Naga, who never quite understood the key to the heart of the woman he woke up next to for fourteen long years.

To Musa who was convinced that what he was doing achieved success, even if he had to die for it. Whose ideas of azaadi (freedom) were so radical, it would leave the reader changed forever.

To Miss Jebeen — the daughter of six fathers and three mothers — who lived on as Miss Udaya Jebeen, the only thread tying all these shattered lives together; the light and laughter of Jannat Guest House.

Final Thoughts

But more importantly, this book belongs to you — the reader — who will be taken on a journey through the crowded, colourful streets of old Delhi, to the quiet dissatisfaction brewing in the lawns of Jantar Mantar, to the blood-drenched valley of Kashmir, to the place where old birds go to die, and finally to a home where things might just have a happy ending.

“How to tell a shattered story?
By slowly becoming everybody. No. By slowly becoming everything.”

This book will leave you a changed person. I know. I have experienced the magic.

Purchase the book here.

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