Book Review – Ghachar Ghochar by Vivek Shanbagh

Loved reading Ghachar Ghochar by Vivek Shanbagh. Translated version from Kannada to English. It was a short, compact novella. Found it gripping enough to complete in one sitting. The vague ending added to the book’s appeal. It is a down-to-earth Indian family drama on the surface, with a rags to riches layer. The language is simple, candid, yet the flow of the story reveals a nuanced complexity that draws you in. The title is a made-up nonsensical term by one of the characters in the story and refers to “being tangled beyond repair.”
As the narration progresses, and interactions between the characters grow, themes of changing family ties and interdependence influenced by improved finances, feminism, gender dynamics are explored. With less words, and things left unsaid, the author packs in a literary punch, elevating and differentiating this novel.
The narrator stays in a joint family with his parents, wife, divorced sister, and his paternal uncle who steered the family from the brink of financial crisis to prosperity with his business idea and implementation. While the narrator is observant he prefers to be passive and complacent, keeping his opinions to himself. Even during situations that evoke his empathy and prod his conscience, urging him to intervene, he slides into a state of silence. Whenever he is overwhelmed by the happenings at home, he seeks respite by slipping away to his hangout of comfort: the Coffee House, where he reflects on his relationships and life and looks forward to brief yet deep meaningful comments from waiter Vincent. Comments that are startlingly relevant to his situation convince him that Vincent has the makings of a philosopher even as he lets the old world charm of the place calm him. The story unfolds through his eyes, till it comes to an abrupt ending, open to interpretation. The unreliability of the narrator, and his biased perspective add to the building sense of suspense and unease from one moment to the other, keeping the reader engrossed from start to finish. 

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