My trysts with my blog have become few and far in between but I never thought I would leave a gap of more than an year in writing down something here. Also the bibliophile in me has taken a different avatar; I have started collecting titles for my 5 year old and buried myself in his stories.
Ghachar Ghochar has brought me back to my blog and also redefined my scope of reading. This book popped out and grabbed my attention from an Instagram account, good reviews it garnered and the mention that it is about 120 pages long made it an apt pick.
Smaller books meant sustainable attention and a better promise of on-time completion.
Ghachar Ghochar by Vivek Shanbagh (translated from Kannada by Srinath Perur) is a skilfully written account of familial turmoil that arises in wake of newly acquired wealth. Never through the length of the book does the reader feel that there are too many subtleties discussed or too many details omitted. Rightly paced, correctly dense, the narrative cannot get more concise and intriguing. The translation by Perur is elegant without hiccups thereby throwing open this impressive work in Indian fiction to many like me.
The book is divided into seven chapters and starts with the narrator sitting at a Coffee House - an airy, spacious, high ceilinged bar and restaurant mulling over many things. This place serves as a retreat for the him when his head has a thousand wheels spinning in it from what transpires at his home daily. An oracular waiter working here, Vincent, is not just the narrator's confidante but his well wisher and soothsayer too.
In the chapters to follow, the author maintains immaculate precision in introducing members of the narrator's family in order of their importance linked to their financial status.
Chikkappa or Venkatachala, the narrator's father's younger brother steers the family from a life of modest means, cramped but dignified existence to abundant riches by founding and successfully running a business in spices called Sona Masala. Seemingly, he is a messiah who raised the family onto a higher socio-economic pedestal but inevitably is the harbinger of utter chaos into which the family is gradually pulled in.
The narrator's father is scrupulous man, a salesman by profession, his income though minimal meets the family needs. The narrator states "we did not desire what we could not afford , when you have no choice, you have no discontent either." The episodes before they became affluent - a description of the house they lived in, their wars with endless columns of ants in there, their daily activities are described in right depth.
It is when the narrator talks of his elder sister as a pile of gunpowder waiting to go off, we infer the damages improved finances bring along apart from many lavish benefits.You cannot agree more when he says - It is true what they say,its not we who control money, its money that controls us. When there's little, it behaves meekly; when it grows , it becomes brash and has its way with us.
The narrator speaks about himself and his wife Anita only towards the end, their marriage and finding love is described sans obscenity in crisp prose. Post marriage, he has trouble dealing with the real right stuff and purportedly right stuff which is essential for peace and unity in family. Anita's brutally forthright nature stirs up dirty waters and raises a lot of muck. Does the narrator deal with these issues, if so how, and what binds this family together despite lack of moral principles?
One might dismiss this book based on a subject featured round the clock on television as dull and unnecessary. But what is noteworthy is that even on such a banal topic, the author weaves intricacy, packs thrill, leaves things unsaid, gives reader ample scope to interpret and conclude; this makes him outstanding and his work an excellent piece of fiction.
Don't turn your back on this book Ghachar Ghochar since it deals with familial problems, but read it to know how well balanced a work of fiction can actually be. Words after all are nothing by themselves , they burst into meaning only in the minds they have entered, the author says in one of the chapters, asserting the importance of perception and interpretation, and that rests with the us who read this work.