Showing posts with label motifs. Show all posts
Showing posts with label motifs. Show all posts

Tuesday 28 December 2021

The Ministry of Utmost Happiness

 The Ministry of Utmost Happiness - A Novel by Arundhati Roy

General Observations about the Novel - 'The Ministry of Utmost Happiness'

The Ministry of Utmost Happiness is a curious beast: baggy, bewilderingly overpopulated with characters, frequently achronological, written in an often careless and haphazard style and yet capable of breathtakingly composed and powerful interludes. The idea that the personal is political and vice versa informs its every sentence, but it also interrogates that assumption, examining its contours and consequences (Alex Clark, The Guardian).

The Ministry of Utmost Happiness takes us on an intimate journey 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. Braiding together the lives of a diverse cast of characters who have been broken by the world they live in and then rescued, patched together by acts of love—and by hope, here Arundhati Roy reinvents what a novel can do and can be (Penguin Random House).
Is novel the right word, though? I hesitate. The Ministry of Utmost Happiness, hulking, sprawling story that it is, has two main strands. One follows Anjum, a hijra, or transwoman, struggling to make a life for herself in Delhi. The other follows Tilo, a thorny and irresistible architect turned activist (who seems to be modeled on Roy herself), and the three men who fall in love with her (Parul Sehgal, The Atlantic).

Intertextual references to other writers in the novel

The novel is divided into twelve chapters of varying lengths, unevenly distributed into six sections, each introduced by a short epigraph. The six quoted authors were all poets or writers who held strong, dissident political views, who rebelled against persecution, who refused submission and compromise. Tormented by institutional violence, censored, imprisoned, some were forced to flee into exile, and some were killed. Others were discriminated against for their skin colour, and/or their sexual orientation and gender “indeterminacy”. All were resolutely insubordinate.
They can all be counted among the “Unconsoled” to whom the novel is dedicated, and whose “Minister”, Hazrat Sarmad Shaheed, symbolises the refusal to submit to any authority other than one’s conscience, one’s intellectual and spiritual integrity.
1. The first epigraph (“I mean, it’s all a matter of your heart”) was taken from Nâzim Hikmet’s poem “On the Matter of Romeo and Juliet”. [ यानी सारा मामला दिल का है... नाज़िम हिकमत ]
2. The second epigraph quotes Pablo Neruda’s last book, Libro de las Preguntas (The Book of Questions), published posthumously in 1974 - “In what language does the rain fall / on tormented cities?”
[ बारिश किस भाषा में गिरती है
यातनाग्रस्त शहरों के ऊपर ? - पाब्लो नेरुदा ]
3. The third epigraph (141) quotes the first line of one of Agha Shahid Ali’s Kashmiri poems, “Death flies in, thin bureaucrat, from the plains”, a fit frame for the third “section”, narrated by “The Landlord”, a cold and somewhat cynical servant of the State.
[ मौत एक छरहरी नौकरशाह है, मैदानों से उड़कर आती हुई - आग़ा शाहिद अली ]
4. The fourth epigraph is by Jean Genet, whose novel Notre-Dame-des-Fleurs (written while its author was serving a prison sentence in Fresnes, in 1942) is quoted three times - "Then, as she had already died four or five times, the apartment had remained available for a drama more serious than her own death." (Our Lady of the Flowers by Jean Genet, translated by Bernard Frechtman).
[ क्योंकि वह पहले चार या पाँच बार मर चुकी थी,
अपार्टमेंट उसकी मृत्यु से भी ज़्यादा गंभीर
किसी नाटक के लिए उपलब्ध था। - ज्याँ जेने ]
5. The fifth epigraph is quoted from James Baldwin’s essay entitled “Down at the cross. Letter from a Region in my Mind”, which offers a set of reflexions on race relations in the USA, many of which, alas, would still be relevant nowadays. When read in the light of caste relations in India, many of those reflexions also seem perfectly relevant - "And they would not believe me precisely because they would know that what I said was true." - from The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin.
[ और वे मेरी बात पर सिर्फ़ इस वजह से यक़ीन नहीं करते थे की
वे जानते थे कि मैंने जो कुछ कहा था वह सच था। - जेम्स बाल्डविन ]
6. The final epigraph used by Roy is a quotation from Nadezhda Mandelstam’s first volume of memoirs, Hope Against Hope, in which Osip Mandelstam’s widow narrates his tragic fate. -
"Then there was the changing of the seasons. ‘This is also a journey,’ M said, ‘and they can’t take it away from us.’ - (translated by Max Hayward) [ फिर मौसमों में परिवर्तन हुआ। 'यह भी एक यात्रा है,' एम ने कहा, 'और इसे वे हमसे छीन नहीं सकते।' - नादेज्दा मान्देल्स्ताम ]

About the Characters and Summary of the novel 'The Ministry of Utmost Happiness'

Part 1 | Khwabgah

Part 2 | Jantar Mantar

Part 3 | Kashmir and Dandakaranyak

Part 4 | Udaya Jebeen & Dung Beetle

Thematic Study of 'The Ministry of Utmost Happiness'

Symbols and Motifs in 'The Ministry of Utmost Happiness'

Check your understanding of the novel - Click here to open online test on 'The Ministry of Utmost Happiness'

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