Contemporary India in MoUH: a journalistic guide

What to expect (and what not to expect) in a novel that is also a compendium of recent eventful decades

GN Bureau | June 6, 2017


#Literature   #The Ministry of Utmost Happiness   #Arundhati Roy   #Culture  


The Ministry of Utmost Happiness, Arundhati Roy’s new novel in two decades, reads like non-fiction at time – in a welcome sense, in a non-post-truth kind of way. Its characters have been painstakingly picked for their knack of running headlong into headline-making events, thus providing the author an opportunity to weave in those events in her larger narrative. An exhaustive list of the real-world events making an appearance in this novel that someone is bound to call necessary reading for our times.
 
Events in the novel:
 
  • The 1975-77 Emergency proclaimed by Indira Gandhi
  • Anti-Sikh riots in Delhi in 1984 following the assassination of prime minister Indira Gandhi
  • The Union Carbide gas leak tragedy in Bhopal in 1984
  • The destruction of the Babri Mosque in 1992
  • The prime ministership of Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Manmohan Singh and Narendra Modi, with descriptions of their body language and speeches
  • The 9/11 terrorist attack in the US
  • The train burning at Godhra, Gujarat, in 2002, and the following communal riots (especially in Ahmedabad, described for some reason as the capital of the state)
  • The anti-corruption protests at Jantar Mantar, Delhi, in 2011
  • An Arvind Kejriwal lookalike named Mr Aggarwal
  • Mob attacks and lynching on cow/beef issues, including one in Una, Gujarat, in 2016
  • Kashmir, from the rise of insurgency to today, a thorough history
  • The Maoist insurgency in parts of India, an intimate history
  • Not to mention the references to much more
 
The recent history is recapped so exhaustively that young UPSC aspirants too may find the novel useful. There is almost a penchant for ticking off all headlines, so much so that a reader can complain why some events were not included, if for nothing else than for sake of complete listing.
 
Events that did not make the cut:
 
  • The terrorist bombings in Mumbai, 1993
  • Several other terrorist attacks in various parts of the country between then and 2008
  • The terror attacks in Mumbai in 2008
 

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