it is a far, far better thing that i do, than i have ever done

the god of small things was another book i discovered very randomly via two friends' facebook 'likes'--whose taste generally i could identify with, or at least am often intrigued by. to be honest: title is the first element i normally look into upon exploring a book and in this case i jolly well loved it. this was how it went with this book. liked the title, googled it and found a conceivably memorable quote of the book. off to the library to look for it besides several other desired titles that i had safely pocketed, and picked it above all else.

my progress with the book had been initially VERY slow as the god of small things adopted (invented, in one of the reviewers' words) an entirely different kind of language from cormack mccarthy's the road--the book that i finished before an immediate picking of the god of small things. the road, firstly, had done a considerable amount of 'balancing' act to me; the stark, fussless language had become a specific genre of entertainment on its own in my reading experience. it is different from most things i had read before that used language as a powerful tool, that i've also come to love. the god of small things, on the other hand, reminded me of a lot of small things that lurk inside, and rekindled my previous love for this kind of magical, largely nuanced writing. in which it has a lot of layers that should be peeled one by one, without restraint, because the words would not like to be wounded.

so since i was still being in mccarthy mode, language did not hook me up at first (although i got used to and even learnt to love it with a certain, gradual build-up), and nor did the story--everything seemed to be tangled, although in a neat ball, but not always in a pleasant way. i was being very demanding at first, impatiently waiting for a shred of red thread to link all those little events that at first appeared interesting only when standing on each own.

but this is the main plot:

the god of small things tells of a 'tragic decline' of a syrian christian family in kerala, india. rahel and estha are dizygotic twins whose relationship has undergone sweeping currents, it goes invariably back and forth, mostly without concrete directions. although the synopsis claims the book to mostly center around the story of 'forbidden love', very fortunately it was not the only thing i managed to learn from the book. i found that the focus of the book hovers beyond this context, there is much more to offer. there is a lot of things that feels more relevant to me, which does not have to grow to be something as huge as 'forbidden love'.

the familial ties receive the central attention of the book; how much one should love one another and how the amount could decrease because of some gravely reasons. the consequence of having someone in ties that have been determined since long; even before you were born.

love laws. which are not arbitrary.

the book, from some personal retrospects, feels like a densely culture-infused tale akin to jeffrey eugenides' middlesex--something that most people could relate to, despite being from different cultures. there are also a lot of cross-cultural ties and relationships that play important roles in the book, and how some common stereotypes might arise in such circumstances. perhaps one of the most relatable ones to english speaking commonwealth countries would be the stereotype that nonwhites are english handicapped. estha and rahel's australian relative is visiting their house when they are about seven, and as a visiting gift they are given a children book. rahel and estha take this as an insult (they've started reading classic literature at this age) and teased their relative by reading the sentences of the book backwards aloud. they tell her that in their native language, they could read sentences backwards. so why not apply it to english? their relative is definitely not amused by this and there is a raise of tension in the air. in the end the relative dies an ironic death: being hit by a van that is moving backwards. the twist to the end of this conflict to me, feels way too colossal, fabricated. although in every other consideration it is actually a very fine sarcastic touch of a spectacular event to end things. they make death look so easy here.

brief reports on political situation, though i failed to catch them as a whole, serve as not only as basic background information, but also a starting point where a subplot emerges from...

perhaps the part that i really like would be the 'love story' between margaret kochamma and chacko, estha and rahel's uncle. when first meeting margaret, chacko is still studying in oxford while margaret is studying there while working as a part-time waitress as well. although both are away from home, they definitely espouse different values and worldviews. chacko is a 'helpless, exiled prince' whose room is always a mess--cigarette butts and books and dirty underwear scattered on the floor. margaret, on the other hand, is almost like a saint. not studious, not excessively altruistic or holy, but quite. their encounter in a small cafe where margaret works at shreds a light to margaret's enclosed, narrow space. chacko brings along with him the world that spins in a new manner, in which the horizons have expanded.

what chacko sees in margaret = independence and self-sufficiency
what margaret sees in chacko = knowledge and passion

but more importantly, it's the withering away of comfort, which margaret has previously found in chacko's existence, that finally brings an end to their inconclusive marriage.
A few months after they began to go out together, he began to smuggle her into his rooms, where he lived like a helpless, exiled prince. Despite the best efforts of his scout and cleaning lady, his room was always filthy. Books, empty wine bottles, dirty underwear and cigarette butts littered the floor. Cupboards were dangerous to open because clothes and books and shoes would cascade down and some of his books were heavy enough to inflict real damage. Margaret Kochamma's tiny, ordered life relinquished itself to this truly baroque bedlam with the quiet gasp of a warm body entering a chilly sea.

She discovered that underneath the aspect of the Rumpled Porcupine, a tortured Marxist was at war with an impossible, incurable Romantic-who forgot the candles, who broke the wineglasses, who lost the ring. Who made love to her with a passion that took her breath away. She had always thought of herself as a somewhat uninteresting, thick-waisted, thick-ankled girl. Not bad-looking. Not special. But when she was with Chacko, old limits were pushed back. Horizons expanded.

She had never before met a man who spoke of the world-of what it was, and how it came to be, or what he thought would become of it-in the way in which other men she knew discussed their jobs, their friends or their weekends at the beach.

Being with Chacko made Margaret Kochamma feel as though her soul had escaped from the narrow confines of her island country into the vast, extravagant spaces of his. He made her feel as though the world belonged to them-as though it lay before them like an opened frog on a dissecting table, begging to be examined.

In the year she knew him, before they were married, she discovered a little magic in herself, and for a while felt like a blithe genie released from her lamp. She was perhaps too young to realize that what she assumed was her love for Chacko was actually a tentative, timorous, acceptance of herself.

i also like how they remain friends after marriage; and how their post-divorce relationship matures with time, although for different reasons to margaret and to chacko.

other parts of the book that i like: ammu's death (estha and rahel's mother), sophie mol's death (that occurs not once, not twice, but several times), the day when ammu 'loved rahel a little less' and punished rahel (rahel asks for the punishment herself; i think this is a culture embedded to asian/high-context society and children are expected to be obedient and hence, perhaps, they expected themselves to be obedient too).

‘Rahel,’ Ammu said.

Rahel froze. She was desperately sorry for what she has said. She didn’t know where those words had come from. She didn’t know that she’d had them in her. But they were out now and wouldn’t go back in. They hung about that red staircase like clerks in a Government office. Some stood, some sat and shivered their legs.

‘Rahel,’ Ammu said. ‘Do you realize what you have just done?’

Frightened eyes and a fountain looked back at Ammu.

‘It’s all right. Don’t be scared,’ Ammu said. ‘Just answer me. Do you?’

‘What?’ Rahel said in the smallest voice she had.

‘Realize what you’ve just done?’ Ammu said.

Frightened eyes and a fountain looked back at Ammu.

‘D’you know what happens when you hurt people?’ Ammu said. ‘When you hurt people, they begin to love you less. That’s what careless words do. They make people love you a little less.’


‘Ammu,’ Rahel said, ‘shall I miss dinner as my punishment?’

She was keen to exchange punishments. No dinner, in exchange for loving her the same as before.

‘As you please,’ Ammu said. ‘But I advise you to eat. If you want to grow, that is. Maybe you could share some of Chacko’s chicken.’

‘Maybe and maybe not.’ Chacko said.

‘But what about my punishment?’ Rahel said. ‘You haven’t given me my punishment!’

‘Some things come with their own punishments,’ Baby Kochamma said. As though she was explaining a sum that Rahel couldn’t understand.

Some things come with their own punishments. Like bedrooms with built-in cupboards. They would all learn more about punishments soon. That they came in different sizes. That some were so big they were like cupboards with built-in bedrooms. You could spend your whole life in them, wandering through dark shelving.

when i was on my way home i saw a guy holding this book, still in his jc uniform. i saw words scribbled beside the printed words, and some thick strokes of fluorescent yellow. i thought i might have been quite unlucky, never having a chance to study the book properly. but it's okay

i do not need confirmation from others to validate the book's tact and beauty

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