‘The Ministry of Utmost Happiness’ is Arundhati Roy’s 2nd novel. Her first novel ‘God of Small Things’ was a runaway success and won her the prestigious Booker Prize. Despite its dark tale, ‘God of Small Things’ did win her a lot of fans right away. Readers and fans were long expecting her to write another. It did not happen but until recently with ‘The Ministry of Utmost Happiness’.
The novel claims to take us on an intimate journey of many years across the Indian subcontinent, from the cramped neighborhoods of Old Delhi and the roads of the new city, to the mountains and valleys of Kashmir and beyond, where war is peace and peace is war.
The tale begins with Anjum—who used to be Aftab—unrolling a threadbare Persian carpet in a city graveyard she calls home. We encounter the odd, unforgettable Tilo and the men who loved her, including Musa, sweetheart and ex-sweetheart, lover and ex-lover. Their fates are as entwined as their arms used to be and always will be. We meet Tilo’s landlord, a former suitor, now an intelligence officer posted to Kabul, and then we meet the two Miss Jebeens. The first is a child born in Srinagar and buried in its overcrowded Martyrs’ Graveyard. The second is found at midnight, abandoned on a concrete sidewalk in the heart of New Delhi.