Ghachar Ghochar by Vivek Shanbhag : What is a happy family, tell me, what is it?
An old coffeehouse, a wise waiter named Vincent who knows his regulars better than themselves, and a man who is thinking of his past. This is how the book starts. Considering a detailed description of the coffee house and events around it, it was obvious for me to consider that this book will revolve around this coffeehouse. Well, that comes into the picture, but after this not so domestic opening for domestic fiction, we join the narrator's family in their transition from a middle-class family to a rich ( but not-so-rich) family. Well, this happens suddenly. All thanks to Chikkappa, a patriarch of the family.
The family we witness is very common. As real as we see everywhere. Everything goes well, just as an ideal joint family would expect until our narrator gets married to Anita. That changes everything. For good or for bad? Well, read and find out.
And a fun fact, Anita introduces our narrator with the word Ghachar Ghochar on their honeymoon. The word is known to only four people in the world, herself and her other family members.
I must admit that Vivek Shanbhag is a brilliant writer. At first, this book looks like a family drama, then it feels like literary fiction, it even takes a turn to be a mildly feminist novel, and at the end, as many mention, it appears to a psychological thriller. I mean, how could you go this thick with a very thin book. There are 7 chapters and the only two chapters that impressed me are the first and the last. BUT… even if the middle chapters are mainstream and the author describes the smallest of the things, nothing feels like a waste of time. You just go on. You go on until you feel uneasy at the end. The metaphors start evaporating and they cloud above you to rain the reality. What exactly is a happy family, tell me, what is it?
I missed appreciating some things: Top-notch translation, the subtleness, and the masterfully crafted events and characters.
Do not expect anything and read it till the end. Appreciate the series of events and how they are narrated and sit down and think over the end, I am sure you will understand even if it’s open, entangled and Ghachar Ghochar.