“Like Old Roses On A Breeze”:
The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy
“The God of Loss. The God of Small Things. He left no footprints in sand, no ripples in water, no image in mirrors.” (Roy, 250)
The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy is about two twins, Estha and Rahel, and the man they loved, the God of Small Things. Estha and Rahel are twins from Kerala, India, where the caste system governs people’s lives. Rahel, with her hair tied up – “her fountain in a Love-in-Tokyo” (101), and Estha with “his beige and pointy shoes and his Elvis puff” (37), experience a world that is governed by the Love Laws, Laws “[t]hat lay down who should be loved. And how. And how much” (311). In the end, the twins themselves defy these very rules that “ma[de] grandmothers grandmothers, uncles uncles, mothers mothers, cousins cousins, jam jam, and jelly jelly” (31).
To start from the beginning, Estha and Rahel are twins, Esthappen “older by eighteen minutes” (4), and as little kids, they learn that “the world had…ways of breaking men” (8), and that the smell of broken men was “Sicksweet. Like old roses on a breeze” (8). What is important to understand here is that Estha and Rahel share an incredible connection. As the narrator says:
In those early amorphous years when memory had only just begun, when life was full of Beginnings and no Ends, and Everything was Forever, Esthappen and Rahel thought of themselves together as Me, and separately, individually, as We or Us. (4-5)
Estha and Rahel can hold a conversation together in their heads, where they can choose to verbally state their thoughts, or they can choose to stay silent. There is even a time when Estha and Rahel end up staying in different rooms at a hotel, and when Estha decides to walk to Rahel’s room at night, Rahel is already waiting to open the door for him. Even when they are not together physically, the two share their experiences. As the narrator reveals, “[Rahel] has other memories too that she has no right to have. She remembers, for instance (though she hadn’t been there), what the Orangedrink Lemondrink Man did to Estha in Abhilash Talkies. She remembers the taste of the tomato sandwiches — Estha’s sandwiches, that Estha ate — on the Madras Mail to Madras. And these are only the small things” (5). So what surprise does the world have for these twins?
Estha and Rahel experience painful things that children their age should never have experienced. However, even though it is painful for me to admit, I have no doubt that many children at Estha and Rahel’s age go through traumatic experiences. We, as parents, siblings, family members, or friends, do not want people of certain age to experience certain things. However, Roy’s novel makes me wonder about the validity of this very thought – “children, or people, of certain age should never experience the following things: x, y, z.” In a way, I think that the Love Laws that govern Estha and Rahel’s society – and our society – can be so restrictive, binding, and prejudiced, but they have been around for so long that we would not know where to start if they were to be changed. Or am I mistaken in this thought?
The God of Small Things could be one person, or he could be a people. Chacko, Rahel and Estha’s uncle, says something that captures the idea of “the God of Small Things” perfectly:
We’re Prisoners of War…Our dreams have been doctored. We belong nowhere. We sail unanchored on troubled seas. We may never be allowed ashore. Our sorrows will never be sad enough. Our joys never happy enough. Our dreams never big enough. Our lives never important enough. To matter. (52)
By stating this, Chacko becomes the God of Small Things for this one moment. At least, that is the impression I got from reading the novel. The God of Small Things is anyone who has been oppressed by laws, whose sorrows, joys, dreams, and lives can never be important enough. Or did I get the wrong impression? (What do you think?)
By the end of the novel, Rahel and Estha lose their God of Small Things. After having been forced to drift apart for awhile, the “Dizygotic” twins (4), also known as “Mrs. Eapen and Mrs. Rajagopalan, Twin Ambassadors of God-knows-what” (293), one with her “fountain in a Love-in-Tokyo,” and the other with “his beige and pointy shoes and his Elvis puff,” no longer children, and no longer naive, come back together to cross the boundaries set by the Love Laws once and for all.
Roy, Arundhati. The God of Small Things: A Novel. Random House Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.