I am feeling stunned and to use the words of queen “a little high and a little low” and kind of despondent and depressed. Not because anything significant happened to me personally. But because I happened to read “The god of small things” by Arundhathi Roy once again. I had read this a long time back.
The first time I took it into my hands many years ago I stopped it after a couple of pages because the style of writing was unfamiliar to me and I was wanting a conventional story.
The second time was a couple of months after that I somehow got hooked and started reading it with relish.
Recently it must have been over a good 7 years I started reading it again. And oh what a lovely experience it was. It was like going down your favourite path after many years. And you end up rediscovering the old and the familiar in an totally astonishing manner.
One thing about AR is that she is one helluva writer and once again I had the ability to write like that. To say she is writing is an understatement. I think she creates thought spaces using her pen as a wand. Let me just share with you my favorite piece from her book to illustrate my point.
The Kathakali Man is the most beautiful of men. Because his body is his soul. His only instrument. From the age of three it has been planed and polished, pared down, harnessed wholly to the task of storytelling. He has magic in him, this man within the painted mask and swirling skins.
But these days he has become unviable. Unfeasible. Condemned goods. His children deride him. They long to be everything that he is not. He has watched them grow up to become clerks and bus conductors. Class IV nongazetted officers. With unions of their own.
But he himself, left dangling somewhere between heaven and earth, cannot do what they do. He cannot slide down the aisles of buses, counting change and selling tickets. He cannot answer bells that summon him. He cannot stoop behind trays of tea and Marie biscuits.
In despair, he turns to tourism. He enters the market. He hawks the only thing he owns. The stories that his body can tell.
He becomes a Regional Flavor. In the Heart of Darkness they mock him with their lolling nakedness and their imported
attention spans. He checks his rage and dances for them. He collects his fee. He gets drunk. Or smokes a joint. Good Kerala grass. It makes him laugh. Then he stops by the Ayemenem Temple, he and the others with him, and they dance to ask pardon of the gods.
Rahel (no Plans, no Locusts Stand I), her back against a pillar, watched Karna praying on the banks of the Ganga. Karna, sheathed in his armor of light. Karna, melancholy son of Surya, God of Day. Karna the Generous. Karna the abandoned child. Karna the most revered warrior of them all.
That night Karna was stoned. His tattered skirt was darned, There were hollows in his crown where jewels used to be. His velvet blouse had grown bald with use. His heels were cracked. Tough. He stubbed his joints out on them.
But if he had had a fleet of makeup men waiting in the wings, an agent, a contract, a percentage of the profits–what then would he be? An impostor. A rich pretender. An actor playing a part. Could he be Karna? Or would he be too safe inside his pod of wealth? Would his money grow like a rind between himself and his story? Would he be able to touch its heart, its hidden secrets, in the way that he can now?
This man tonight is dangerous. His despair complete. This story is the safety net above which
he swoops and dives like a brilliant clown in a bankrupt circus. It’s all he has to keep him from crashing through the world like a falling stone. It is his color and his light. It is the vessel into which he pours himself. It gives him shape. Structure. It harnesses him. It contains him. His Love. His Madness. His Hope. His Infinnate joy. Ironically, his struggle is the reverse of an actor’s struggle– he strives not to enter a part but to escape it. But this is what he cannot do. In his abject defeat lies his supreme triumph. He is Karna, whom the world has abandoned. Karna Alone. Condemned goods. A prince raised in poverty. Born to die unfairly, unarmed and alone at the hands of his brother. Majestic in his complete despair. Praying on the banks of the Ganga. Stoned out of his skull
If you haven’t read it I suggest you get it now if you want a pdf of the book just let me know and I will gladly mail it to you.