Ghachar Ghochar by Vivek Shanbhag : Review ★★★★.5

Ghachar Ghochar is a short novella translated from Kannada (regional language in India) by Srinath Perur. It is a profound take on inescapable and complex familial relationships. Our good for nothing narrator sits in a coffee house in Bangalore mulling over his thoughts, observing people, and reminiscing his past. As he walks back home he takes us on the journey of getting to know his family. A journey from rags to riches.

This book is difficult to part ways and leaves you hanging for more. 

What does even Ghachar Ghochar mean, you ask?

It is a fabricated word that sounds gibberish but holds a deeper thought. It is something that is entangled to the extent that it is beyond repair. Convoluted. Unresolvable.

The book starts as our narrator sits in a coffee house in Bangalore mulling over his thoughts, observing people, and reminiscing his past. As the story progresses, we come to know his family. A lower-middle-class Indian family who has spent their childhood in a cramped home, ants pestered their property, and devoid of any tangible or personal space. 

From the outside, the familial bond is pure and fulfilling until the money arrives. Their uncle starts a business and “Sona Masala” is born. From rags to riches therefore a new journey begins. Somewhere from sharing a single room to having separate space, they grow apart. Unseen boundaries. Space fills their rooms and their lives leaving no room for each other. The family dynamics shift like money.

“Words, after all, are nothing by themselves. They burst into meaning only in the minds they’ve entered.” – Ghachar Ghochar

True characters are revealed with the choices one makes when one is rich. On the surface, everything seems perfect, a happy family – poor but happy until the money arrives. After the entrant of a new character, family discord comes into the picture. Relationships die a silent death and greed overshadows their vision.

The Indian-ness is the soul of this novella. The mother-in-law doesn’t want to give up her power of the Kitchen because the one who rules the kitchen rules all. The daughter-in-law leaves no stone unturned to hurt her sister-in-law and mother-in-law. Each of them have some unique traits not aligned with one another. They never fail to speak up and are always ready to hurt each other with nothing but words. They have both strong and weak moments in their lives and they deal with them on their own concealing their vulnerability from the very people they call family. 

Vincent is an enigmatic character. He is less of a waiter, more of a mysterious, godlike figure who makes rare appearances in the book but strikes the right chord every time without fail. He knows the right words. He never tries to sugarcoat. Brevity is his motto. Simple words kicking deeper thoughts with poignant imagery are his work of art.

“Holes in the dosas in everyone’s house” – Ghachar Ghochar

Spanning over 100 pages, this book is pure joy. A remarkable text which lingers on and doesn’t leave you easily. The beauty of the book is that is it unputdownable. The end would definitely leave you flabbergasted and you would brew your own version connecting the dots as to what might have happened. Being such a short book, it is a perfect amalgamation of philosophy and suspense with a slight tinge of Indianness. The writing is fluid, sets the reader in a pensive mood with thoughts to reflect upon. 

Shanbhag has compacted themes like power dynamics, adversities of acquiring money within the confinement of a family. The stark contrast between their lives before and after the acquisition of money is brilliantly portrayed. I loved this book, devoured every bit of it.

Read it or Skip it?

It is such a compelling book that every word draws you in the story. A must-read if you like cliffhangers. Highly Recommended.

If you have enjoyed your time reading this, check out the below novellas:

Have you heard of this book? Do you read Indian literature? Do you like to read novellas?

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4 thoughts on “Ghachar Ghochar by Vivek Shanbhag : Review ★★★★.5

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