Anjum leads a rather unconventional life. Born Aftab, the longed-for son of parents blessed with hordes of daughters, Anjum was never truly that. A hybrid being, a Hijra, Anjum decides to be the creator of her own fate, despite the heartache and bliss this authors.
The Ministry of Utmost Happiness is her story, punctuated by the tales of her kin, and those she loves. Spanning several years and as many disasters, her place within India and its vibrant people is firmly etched. Between politics, war, and religion, and amid corpses and forgotten names, Anjum’s life is a journey of any visitors.
The conclusion of our tale is nothing as straightforward or trivial as a happy ending, but comes close through a profound sense of peace and finality. While wrongs can never be righted, nor the dead brought back to life, Anjum and her brethren remind us that there is power in starting over, in forgiveness, and in acceptance.
Deeply poetic and profoundly dark, The Ministry of Utmost Happiness is a daring dance between utter despair and a literary masterpiece, a noteworthy read which stands apart from its contemporaries, unapologetic and confrontational and yet pleasantly so. Here is a narrative which cannot be evaded or avoided – strap on your shoes, for you are about to walk several hundred miles in the ill-fitting shoes of imperfectly beautiful characters.
The Ministry of Utmost Happiness is a weighty tale with heavy conscience, yet its frank descriptions and colourful language add a delightful sharp edge. It is well worth the time to read and digest.
The Ministry of Utmost Happiness by Arundhati Roy is published by Penguin Random House.