It is a family drama alright. But it is much more than that. For example, the book opens in a coffee shop where the narrator sees a woman having a fight with her boyfriend. We learn about his ex-girlfriend Chitra and the almost godly waiter, Vincent. We yearn to learn more about these people, when Vivek Shanbag takes the narrator to a different setting who starts the story almost like a soliloquy. One which we cant take our eyes off.
I have always felt that Southern States have not got their share of literary pieces. With Ghachar Ghochar, I am satisfied in that aspect. Reading something that I was able to relate really came in as a whiff of fresh air really. The way he explains what his father did for living and the way he explained the house, were all spot on. We get a clear picture of how the narrator’s father was after his work time. The Author easily establishes the family bonding in the first few chapters. As a family they never like intruders. It is just the five of them. Even a colony of ants were not welcome.
When chikappa starts the new business and they move on to a bigger, better house, there is a passage which explains the house devoid of all their belongings. That sets the tone for whatever that is yet to come in the novel. Basically it is refreshing to see Vivek Shanbag respect his readers. He doesn’t tell many. He is, in someway like the distant cousin who loves to gossip in the marriages. Not letting out too many secrets but at the same time, just gives a lot of meat to our imagination. That to me is the success of Ghachar Ghochar because the story grows in us and we can take it in whatever direction we want to. We can give whatever justification we want to give to our favorite characters in the book.
There were three scenes which stood out in the novel for me. It is the starting passage when Amma and Sister of the narrator shames a woman who comes to their door. It is a such a delicate situation which was handled beautifully. And the second one which comes in the middle is, the narrator is disturbed from his sleep by the load lorry which brings the supply to Sona masala. His Chikappa supervises the transfer and suddenly when one of the labor gets hurt, he takes up the load from him and carries it to the godown. The narrator’s wife asks if he is going to help, the narrator refuses. The third one is the most disturbing account of the novel, which comes in the end where the five of the family gathers up in the dining table and enjoy the meal as if nothing had happened. Just like the family which got rid of the colony of ants. Only then I understood the meaning of the title.. Ghachar Ghochar.
This is one heck of a book no one should miss.