The Ministry of Utmost Happiness, according to me, is a fascinating mess. A mixed bag, which is tiring yet exhilarating, enraging yet engaging, humorous yet horrifying, and formidable, yet memorable.
It’s a sprawling, ambitious novel with no specific plot.
And I'm fine with that.
Because I'm a self-confessed sucker for intricate and layered writing. Whenever asked to choose between alluring, compelling prose or an interesting storyline, I root for the former. To me HOW a story is told is infinitely more imp than what that story is about.
The Ministry might be a letdown for those looking for a typical form-studded fiction with a beginning, a middle, and an end.
Ministry is a book written by a writer but dictated by an activist.The approach seeks to create fiction by layering actual history with news headlines to form a defensive alliance with reality.The activist in Arundhati Roy has almost hijacked the writing of this novel. Many a political feather has been ruffled in the bargain – with far-right patriots and nationalists yelling bloody blasphemy.
Just like a train slowly fills itself with passengers, the Ministry gets embroiled in all political and social problems of India – Kashmir (the main plot), Naxalism, capitalism, casteism, Gujarat riots, 1984 riots, the rise of Hindu nationalism.
To me, the book brings about the metaphoric irony of a paradise (Kashmir) turning into a graveyard at one end, and a graveyard morphing into a paradise, at the other.
Every chapter of the Ministry is embellished with distinct story-telling skills.The book covers all forms of Roy's writing finesse from poetry and prose to composition, dialogue, and letters. The writing swirls.... like ink in water, not words on paper. Some sentences enthrall your senses (at least mine) so deeply that you stop dead in your track; gulp; reread; assimilate; ingest, and then proceed.
I would give it 5 stars for writing, and 2 for the story/plot... so maybe 4 stars on the whole.