The Ministry of Utmost Happiness: Book Review (Part II)

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Hello people! Today seems to be a wonderful day! Can you guess why? We are finally out with the final part of our collab! DRUMBEATS!!!

You may recall our reviews of the book “The Ministry of Utmost Happiness” (Linked Here;inkandthoughts and Here;lifeofchaz ), but do you know what really happens behind the scenes? Well if you don’t, here are a few things you should know about how the magic of “collabing” works.

Things That Go Into A Collab

  • Trying to get Chaz to read the book for two and a half months. 
  • Trying to explain to Chaz concepts one-hundred times because he never understands the first time. 
  • Trying to work with ten hour time difference living on opposite sides of the world. 
  • Waking up at 3AM to finish writing posts and making Instagram posts. Take a guess, as to who did that… 
  • Attempting to book plane tickets to India in two days, and then cancelling because a certain “someone” threatened the other about their collab answers. 
  • Hiding out in a car to escape mothers to talk to bloggers in the U.S after staying up all night. 
  • Losing hope that the post will ever be done. 
  • Being astonished when “someone” finally finishes the book and writes up a post.
  • Learning what Instagram is and what “Boomerang’s” are. 
  • Surviving after talking to each other for weeks on end. 

A small sneak peek for the readers, who thought it would be easy to work on a collab. Trust me, it is not, especially when two dumb heads come together to talk about intellectual things. In between taking jabs at each other, every now and then and cracking lame jokes, we tried to perfect our art of coming up with philosophical answers. This final draft pays testimony to our numerous attempts of answering these questions and polishing them till they were the best (at least for us)! So please don’t judge us too harshly!

Bhagyashree’s Brainiac Questions to Chaz

1) Being a foreigner to the novel did you have any preconceptions or notions about the story? How did they change after completing the novel? What are your thoughts about the author after going through her works? Would you continue reading her works here after?

Chaz working hard on his reading.

I had no idea what this story was going to be about. It’s funny because when I looked it up, I saw the word “romance” somewhere in the synopsis and falsely assumed it was a love story. (I told that to Bhagyashree and she could not believe me!) My thoughts could not be more different than what they were starting the novel. Roy now reminds me of a strong political writer, and I think I would probably read another one of her works if she continues to publish. I am looking into reading her first novel now as well!

2) How did you interpret the title both at the beginning and at the end of the book? Do you think the story plays justice to the title or it talks about finding acceptance in pain?

Chaz attempting to read .

I’m honestly still not sure what to think about it. (This is the hardest question out of all of them!) The characters ended up in their own little communities together, but it’s hard to imagine any type of happiness after all of the pain the story weaved through. I did not think this was going to be a happy story in the beginning though.

3) The book talks about how political turmoil affects people from all walks of life and their adverse reactions to situations concerning them thereafter. Do you think the author justifies them or piques the reader’s sympathy towards these people in any way? Or it is just an attempt of condemning these actions?

I think that the author does a great job in portraying these struggles in the way that she does not try to pique sympathy with over-the-top techniques. I had mentioned in my review about the “rawness” of the story, and in that sense the author just shows what is happening. It is up to you if you want to feel bad or not, but the story is not going to wait for you to make a decision.

4) The author challenges the very idea of attaining happiness by orthodox means through her characters. Do you believe an individual’s circumstances come into play here more than his/her own choices? How do you think the lives of these characters would have turned out had they succumbed to the guidelines entrenched with rules and boundaries?

I think that Roy is trying to abolish the old rules and boundaries that society has put up ever since we can remember. We are in a big turning point as far as social movements go, and the author celebrates that with the choices that she has her characters make. The characters may have had an easier life if they had confined themselves to the old rules, but it is clear that they would not be truly happy if they never remained true to themselves.

5) The novel talks about development in the sense of losing grasp of one’s roots. Do you share the author’s acceptance that this is the way forward? Do you think reading and writing about the struggles of the ‘silenced’ would help make society more empathetic towards these people and eventually alternate avenues of development would emerge?

Chaz still attempting to read, but at a different camera angle .

Yes – telling the stories of the silenced does go a long way in making people more empathetic. We have seen examples of it happening before ,with, every social movement that has succeeded. If you look at the world’s history you can follow the lines of each movement and how they succeeded. These stories play an important part in the development of those movements.  I am in full support of it and in full support of losing grasp of one’s roots. Just because the roots are there, it does not mean that they are worth losing. (In this case they are!)

6) There are a variety of social issues discussed in the novel ranging from social inequality, exclusion, domestic violence to depression and political turmoil among others. Which of these varied themes according to you needs to be extensively written and widely read in the current times?

Chaz’s pup doing all of the work for him .

Would it be a cop-out to say that all of them should still be explored? While there are progressive movements that are in different stages than others, and some of them much further along, we have seen that it is important to keep writing about them even after the movement has come to a “success”. Everyone should be able to experience the freedoms that they deserve, and the battle for them is unfortunately not close to being over, but at least we are living through the most progressive time in recent history.

Chaz’s Clever Questions to Bhagyashree

1) Media can portray only the negative aspects of certain events and culture to skew people’s perceptions which end up making them blow certain things out of proportion. Do you feel this novel portrayed anything unfairly?

That is the beauty of this novel, it never presents anything with a backdrop of fairness or impartiality. It presents the facts as they are, leaving it on the shoulders of the capable readers(like both of us, an oxymoron in itself, isn’t it ) to form their own opinions. I won’t say that the novel has portrayed anything in negative light, but yes, it would have been a good idea had the author included other perspectives than just the characters themselves. And a more, well-mapped plot, that does not include everything that the characters (or the author herself) come across, would have mellowed down the story for people like us. Although, when we talk of Roy, as a precocious author, we can’t really expect that to happen, so I guess what we are left is, broaden our understanding!

2) How important is a well structured plot for you? Did you feel the same way I did, or do you think that the message of the story is much more important than making sure the story beats are in the right spot?

I believe both a well-structured plot and powerful message go hand in hand, in the making of a great story. One without the other fails to create the charismatic impact that the author wishes to cast on his/her readers. On one hand the plot steers our imagination on a well routed path, the message of the story, on the other hand, lets us run our imagination wild, on uncharted lands in search of interpretations. I disagree with the notion that the author should focus on either of the two things while carving a story, but surely, the plot shouldn’t have too many backstories and character arcs framing spontaneously, like we have in the book. That just leads to the reader losing momentum of the story.

3) We had spoken about if this book was required to read in schools in India. With so much discussion on censorship lately, do you feel works like these should be encouraged to read? How young is too young to introduce these dark themes during class?

Roy’s works have always tackled the dark realms of truth in an unpretentious manner. Once you decide to read her novels, you can expect yourself to be drawn in a labyrinth of reality, that you are aware of, but fail to acknowledge its presence. Censoring stories like these, would mean holding back the links which connect people with the reality behind the farce reality. So I believe works like these should definitely be encouraged to read right from the time we learn to distinguish between right and wrong and form our own judgments and opinions. Coming to the last part of your question, you can’t expect a scenario where kindergartner kids are debating on these issues, can you? (But then, you would be dealing with the smartest set of kindergarten kids on this planet, a bit unrealistic no?) I understand your concern about the impact this novel revolving around relatively dark themes can have on young minds, so I ‘ll say, teenagers on the brink of adulthood and people beyond this age bracket with their well developed analytical and conclusive skills, would be the best audience for the book.

4) Pain is everywhere in this story. Do you share in any of the pains and struggles that some of the characters in the story faced? Which of the struggles are you fighting against the most in your own life? 

Months flew by, waiting for Chaz to finish reading.

Each character in the novel deals with different kinds of pain and battles his/her own victories. Acceptance of an identity, pain of losing loved ones, trying to be befitting in a world you don’t belong to and the courageous struggle to start anew are some of the core threads discussed in the story. It wouldn’t be a misnomer to say, we are bound to face the pains and struggles of each character in some way or the other in our long, long lives. Given a choice, I would go for the pain and struggles of accepting and adapting to a change, faced by the country, rather than any specific character. Now that more makes sense, since about to start college. Lol!

5) There are a lot of themes involved in this novel that have to do with family relationships, especially motherhood. We saw Anjum ripped from her family, and family ripped from her, plus the same for the other characters. How important is it to listen to your family? Should they control who you really want to be? 

Family is an exceedingly important part of who we are, what we do, the choices we make and how we lead our lives. However, I don’t believe being a part of a family should entirely dictate the terms of our choices and the way of our living. There is a very fine line between looking up to your family for guidance and acting according to their predictions up to the point you suffocate your freedom. The entire burden of balance lies on this willowy line. I guess as long as this line doesn’t slant too much on either side, you’ll be fine. A hard task surely, but worth trying. If not anything, you would have some great things to laugh about, later on!

So this brings us to the end of my first collab ever. I hope as much as I enjoyed working on it, even you guys would enjoy reading it. I would love to hear what you people think about it in the comments section.

A big shout-out to my fellow blogger-turned-friend Chaz, who helped me remain calm during moments of panic at the inability to finish the post on time (or was it the other way round?) and making my tedious wait worthwhile. Let’s collab once again next month, what say? ;P

I would love to continue working on such fun collabs in the future. Well, fellow bloggers you know whom to reach out to, if you feel interested enough to read a book together, review it maturely ( or immaturely, same thing) and discuss the book, in every creative way possible. You guys already know my Instagram handle and my mail id, i you want to reach out to me.

I would be eagerly waiting for your reviews and messages!

Don’t forget to follow my blog for book reviews, collabs and more!

Until the next time,

Cheers!


3 thoughts on “The Ministry of Utmost Happiness: Book Review (Part II)

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