Ghachar Ghochar has called out to me many times in the past few years. The strange title intrigued me, and I wanted to find out what it meant. However, some other book always gained preference and I picked that up instead. Ghachar Ghochar and I were destined to meet when our newly minted Bangalore Book Club picked it as the Book of the Month.
A joint family in small town India, consisting of the parents, a son and daughter and an unmarried uncle. The family lives frugally, till the Uncle ventures into business, starting a spice company. The business profits instantly rocket, as does the family fortune.
The Uncle is the main bread earner while the other members enjoy the benefits, some resentfully, others nonchalantly while still others greedily.
While earlier they learnt to stretch the rupee, they now learn to stretch their imagination, and in some cases avarice, to spend what possibly seems an endless amount that never dries up. Money fast changes morals, values and emotions. Or does it bring what poverty previously hid to the fore?
The main, and unnamed, protagonist does nothing work wise or worthwhile and whiles away his time at Coffee House. He gets married and his wife Anita joins the family. After a blissful honeymoon period Anita begins noticing things that upset her and starts questioning them. She gets no straight answers and when she does she does not like what she hears.
Anita’s value systems and forthrightness begins causing friction with her mother-in-law and divorced sister-in-law and the cracks, in a seemingly united family, begin appearing.
The story has one main character from whose point of view the story is told, supporting characters who prop the story up and a seemingly harmless plot with hints of macabre. The writing makes you think, makes you want to take sides and then change sides. The story may appear simple and slow paced, but it gets your mind racing.
Vivek Shanbhag is a brilliant writer. His observation of human behaviour is astute. Shanbhag displays various shades of human nature, from the sublime to sinister, cleverly. He showcases a seemingly regular family with undercurrents of dysfunction perfectly. Of the supporting characters my favourite was the the waiter at Coffee House, Vincent who has a mysterious and ominous air about him.
The author leaves the end open to interpretation, and, hopefully, ripe and ready for a sequel?
The original book has been written in Kannada and has been translated in English by Srinath Perur, whose choice of words and phrases is exquisite. Srinath Perur is also the author of , If It’s Monday it must be Madurai.
This 119 page novella is an addictive read, and I finished it in one go.
As for, what does Ghachar Ghochar mean? You’ll need to read the book to find out 🙂
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