Book review "Ghachar Ghochar" (Tangled up)
Several days ago, I hopped on to the Amazon website to pre-order Arundhuti Roy's new novel upon learning of it on this forum. Vivek Shanbag's novel “Ghachar Ghochar” (translated by Srinath Perur from Kannada) popped up on my Amazon screen, perhaps because I had looked it up after reading a review in The New Yorker some weeks ago. Remembering the positive reviews on an online literary forum I am a member of (Sasialit), I ordered the book. It arrived the next day, and I read it in a few days.
It's an account of a kind of "joint family." The narrator's father loses his job. Upon this, his younger brother starts a business repacking and selling locally in Bangalore spices that were bought in bulk from Kerala. The business is successful, and the uncle (Chikkappa) now supports the family.
The narrator does not need to work, and does not. He spends his days at Coffee House observing people and speaking with Vincent, a waiter, who is a philosopher, psychologist, friend and server.
The narrator tells us how the family's sudden new wealth comes to alter how they interact with everyone: neighbors as well as the families with whom the son's and daughter's marriages are arranged. We learned of the early days of his marriage, the day he "discovered the exhilaration of getting married in the traditional way", a lovely romantic account of his wedding and honeymoon.
The bride, “not the meek, obedient sort” gradually gets to know the family, their day-to-day life, and how her husband earns his living. At the end of the story, she is away at her parents’ house.
The final pages take the form of a conversation among the family members. It is a casual discussion of how people get away with crimes, with examples of some women who were murdered by their husbands. Yet given what we have learned of the choices they have made and what has transpired in the narrator's marriage, the implications for this family are rather chilling.
I am impressed by how much Shanbag conveys with such economy of words. I highly recommend the book!