Ghachar Ghochar- Vivek Shanbhag

Book Review- 004

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The novella Ghachar Ghochar by Vivek Shanbhag brings about a brilliant story with an engaging narrative for its audience. The book was originally written in Kannada; but judging by its popularity across the internet, it clearly seems to have transcended borders: both local and global.

The story begins against the backdrop of a cafe called Coffee House, which, according to the author, seems to have the ability to push a pause button on time. It is described as one of those places, where the customers can feel at home and stay at lengths without the necessity of ordering at unsaid intervals. In the first chapter itself, the well-crafted lines do a brilliant job of describing the cafe as well as the enigmatic persona of its clairvoyant waiter.

What makes the book stand out are the quotable lines at regular sections which makes the reader stop and think for a moment before reading on.

“Words after all are nothing by themselves. They burst into meaning only in the minds they’ve entered. If you think about it, even those held to be gods incarnate seldom speak of profound things. It’s their day-to-day utterances that are imbued with sublime meanings.”

The broad theme of the book revolves around something that plays a significant role in each one of our lives: money. The book proceeds slowly, describing the transformation taking place within the protagonist’s family, as it moves from rags to riches. It builds well on character development — making the reader connect with some, if not all the characters.

“The budget was fixed — it bought a masala dosa for each of us and a single coffee shared between Appa and Amma. Sometimes one of us would ask for another snack. Then, Appa wouldn’t feel like a coffee.”

The book doesn’t go for an unnecessary rush, but instead, walks you through a play-like situation where you are always at the edge of the seat looking for ways to connect the loose strings. The power-play of the characters keeps developing, the story continues to build on and there you are, flipping through the pages.

“It’s true what they say — it’s not we who control money, it’s the money that controls us. When there’s only a little, it behaves meekly; when it grows, it becomes brash and has its way with us.”

Along with movies such as Parasite, books like Ghachar Ghochar give you a solid reason as to why you should experience art across borders. It is short, sharp and beautifully crafted; it has everything you need in fiction and nothing you don’t. Needless to say, Srinath Perur did a job par excellence in translating this book to English. A must-read, easily.

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