Just finished reading Arundhati Roy’s new novel, The Ministry of Utmost Happiness. From the first page I knew I would not want the story, these characters to end. I imagine it too will be a book spotted on many bookshelves of friends, family and acquaintances across the world as is Roy’s first novel, God of Small Things. Thank you Arundhati Roy for your commitment, your passion for telling complex stories (fiction and non-fiction), bringing us a sense of reality, a sense of justice even amongst the atrocities of a mad, delirious, drunk-on-ego world and still never losing hope in the mad glorious beauty too. Just like the earth in clenched fists, mustard flowers growing through murdered men’s fingers; “the way hope and grief were woven together in it, so tightly, so inextricably.”
The novel touched me deeply for my own personal reasons as I learned more fully the complexity, the devastation of a region I visited in 1991, the region of Kashmir. I travelled with an Australian friend, Lyndal who I met in Kathmandu a couple months previous. We found ourselves on a bus winding through and up into northern India, up to the evocatively beautiful Leh, Ladakh. After a month of breathing slowly the soul of Little Tibet we met a group of Israeli travellers who invited us to come with them to Kashmir, letting us know borders were open and Kashmiri people waiting, welcoming us. We met our Israeli friends in Srinagar. On our third night stretched under the stars on house boats soldiers came onto our friend’s boat and escorted them into the darkness. One young Israeli traveller shot and killed and two others wounded; caught in the crossfire of a war we knew nothing about. We were escorted out on a bus at 3am.
I think of you often Kashmir. A beautiful enchanting mythical region jammed between political greed and power, religious righteousness and ego. Thank you Arundhati Roy for broadening my perspective, for sharing, telling this shattered story by slowly becoming everyone, everything…
By slowly becoming everything.
Tilo. The Ministry of Utmost Happiness