Ghachar Ghochar By Vivek Shanbhag Book Review


Ghachar Ghochar was my second translated book recently. As I said earlier, I am trying to pick up more of regional literature now and these translated versions are there to help.

It starts with our unnamed narrator sitting in a coffee house and he admits he has no reason to be there at all. He is passive, either he is too self-focused or too dejected and is just wasting away. From the beginning you will get to know a lot of musings and ramblings are going on in his mind. When he says “It wasn’t about the tea or the key: the last strands of a relationship can break from a single glance or a moment of silence” you get a hint that he is going through something strange may be even sad.

As the story progresses we get to meet his family. We see how the “joint” family transitions from a poor humble house with 4 small rooms like train compartments and no furniture to a bungalow with excess of it. The author has caught the right pulse of lower middle class segment. His observations of middle class lifestyle was extremely precise. I was always a bit jittery about “Chikkappa” and almost believed he will do something which will throw the family off balance but they say “blood is thicker than water” for a reason.  This family is so tight knitted, no one can get through. When someone tries to get it, these 5 make sure they are out, even if it’s somebody’s spouse or love interest. They are unable to coexist with someone who is not “them”. It’s hard to decide if they are happy or not.

Vivek has crafted a wonderful piece in 119 pages and the beauty of it lies in its simplicity and unsaid things. You will get hooked for chapter 1 itself. It’s full of symbolism and metaphors; my favorites were ant attack, for rejecting everything foreign and outsider; and using umbrellas in moonlight to depict new money and psychological changes associated with that.

It was a very subtle, unassuming and slightly unsettling novel. It leaves you with a weird ending and Ghachar Ghochar thoughts. Loved it nonetheless. Highly recommended!

P.S. Although it’s set in Bangalore, the coffee house part gave me feels of Mumbai Irani/Parsi Cafes, precisely, Kooler & Co. I kept on picturing it throughout.

“When the whole family stuck together, walking like a single body across the tightrope of our circumstances. Without that reality behind her, it’s all a matter of empty principle.”





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