Anyone who’s familiar with leading polemicist and political philosopher, Ms Roy’s non-fiction would have a strong opinion of her philanthropic and Marxist leanings- others merely label them humanistic. Her raising and supporting some of the most contentious issues of the nation- from sponsorship reservations of festivals to building dams to public lynchings- have stationed her in the eye of the storm consistently.
The wait of around twenty years saw the writer’s Ministry of Utmost Happiness out of her craft’s corner. In the many interviews she has given post the release, she sees fiction writing as a universe and her non-fiction as an argument- both political in nature.
It is in this world that the reader finds herself transported- from a derelict corner in Delhi that is a haven for the marginalised, to Kashmir, spanning across vast central India plains and back to the ‘khwabgah’.
The mosaic that is India appears to be ever so more eclectic in Roy’s world, a menagerie of the ‘inconsoled’- the abandoned, the ignored, the tortured, the trodden over, the oppressed, the voiceless and those whose voices are drowned. This peripheral, often ignored list of mendicants, marginalised and abandoned, deserted or ostracised community, suits Ms Roy’s leanings- they make the cut of the India she intends projecting to the world. The stories are earthy, rooted, genuinely visceral – but not entirely devoid of over indulgence, exposure and disparate, disjointed narration.
While she covers all her pet peeves from a certain CM of a western state, to state sponsored terrorism, brutality and poking fun at the fact that ‘normalcy is also declared’ in some territories in India. She scoffs at the gun that ensures peace, sometimes, tediously tiresome logic is applied that of using stray dogs as line of defence or the bottles hanging on the concertina wire is to mock particular religion in the valley. Through the prismatic references to the cow vigilante, Dalit lynchings, and poet prime minister, she travels the travails of the heartland of Delhi, to the the valleys of Kashmir (being her acerbic worst), to the central provinces and back to the ministry of utmost happiness, in the Jannat House where the animals and birds at varying stages of hurt and neglet by the larger society, are harboured from the harsh realities of life.
Taking digs at the establishment and any sort of an organised religious force has been Roy’s forte and calling, it appears. No surprises there that she does so here too- creeping in more of herself, than one would have wanted to see, in a fictional world.
The Ministry of Utmost Happiness
Penguin Random House