“The God of Small Things” By Arundhati Roy 82
leftovericing onto her tongue. Endless coils of chocolate toothpaste on a pink Kochu
Maria tongue. When Mammachi called from the verandah (“Kochu Mariye! I hear the
car!”) her mouth was full of icing and she couldn’t answer. When she finished, she ran
her tongue over her teeth and then made a series of short smacking sounds with her
tongue against her palate as though she’d just eaten something sour.
Distant skyblue carsounds (past the bus stop, past the school, past the yellow church
and up the bumpy red road through the rubber trees) sent a murmur through the dim,
sooty premises of Paradise Pickles.
The pickling (and the squashing, the slicing, boiling and stirring, the grating, salting,
drying, the weighing and bottle sealing) stopped.
“Chacko Saar vannu,” the traveling whisper went. Chopping knives were put down.
Vegetables were abandoned, half cut, on huge steel platters. Desolate bitter gourds,
incomplete pineapples. Colored rubber finger guards (bright, like cheerful, thick
condoms) were taken off. Pickled hands were washed and wiped on cobalt-blue aprons.
Escaped wisps of hair were recaptured and returned to white headscarves. Mundus
tucked up under aprons were let down. The gauze doors of the factory had sprung
hinges, and closed noisily on their own.
And on one side of the driveway, beside the old well, in the shade of the kodam puli
tree, a silent blue-aproned army gathered in the greenheat to watch.
Blue-aproned, white-capped, like a clot of smart blue-and-white flags.
Achoo, Jose, Yako, Anian, Elayan, Kuttan, Vijayan, Vawa, Joy, Sumathi, Ammal,
Annamma, Kanakamma, Latha, Sushila, Vijayamma, Jollykutty, Mollykutty, Lucykutty,
Beena Mol (girls with bus names). The early rumblings of discontent, concealed under a
thick layer of loyalty.
The skyblue Plymouth turned in at the gate and crunched over the gravel driveway
crushing small shells and shattering little red and yellow pebbles. Children tumbled out.
Crumpled yellow bell-bottoms and a go-go bag that was loved. Jet-lagged and barely
awake. Then the swollen-ankled adults. Slow from too much sitting.
`Have you arrived?” Mammachi asked, turning her slanty dark glasses towards the
new sounds: car doors slamming, gettingoutedness. She lowered her violin.
“Mammachi!” Rahel said to her beautiful blind grandmother. “Estha vomited! In the
middle of The Sound of Music! And…”
Ammu touched her slaughter gently. On her shoulder. And her touch meant Shhhh…
Rahel looked around her and saw that she was in a Play. But she had only a small part.
She was just the landscape. A flower perhaps. Or a tree.
A face in the crowd. A Townspeople.
Nobody said Hello to Rahel. Not even the Blue Army in the greenheat.
“Where is she?” Mammachi asked the car sounds. “Where is my Sophie Mol? Come
here and let me see you.”
As she spoke, the Waiting Melody that hung over her like a shimmering temple
elephant’s umbrella crumbled and gently fell about like dust.
Chacko, in his What Happened to Our Man of the Masses? suit and well-fed tie, led
Margaret Kochamma and Sophie Mol triumphantly up the nine red steps like a pair of
tennis trophies that he had recently won.
And once again, only the Small Things were said. The Big Things lurked unsaid
“Hello, Mammachi,” Margaret Kochamma said in her kindschoolteacher (that
sometimes slapped) voice. “Thank you for having us. We needed so much to get away.”
Mammachi caught a whiff of inexpensive perfume soured at the edges by airline
sweat. (She herself had a bottle of Dior in its soft green leather pouch locked away in
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“The God of Small Things” By Arundhati Roy 83
Margaret Kochamma took Mammachi’s hand. The fingers were soft, the ruby rings
“Hello, Margaret,” Mammachi said (not rude, not polite), her dark glasses still on.
“Welcome to Ayemenem. I’m sorry I can’t see you. As you must know, I am almost
blind.” She spoke in a slow deliberate manner.
“Oh, that’s all right,” Margaret Kochamma said. “I’m sure I look terrible anyway.” She
laughed uncertainly, not sure if it was the right response.
“Wrong,” Chacko said. He turned to Mammachi, smiling a proud smile that his mother
couldn’t see. “She’s as lovely as ever.”
“I was very sorry to hear about… Joe,” Mammachi said. She sounded only a little
sorry. Not very sorry.
There was a short, Sad-About-Joe silence.
“Where’s my Sophie Mol?” Mammachi said. “Come here and let your grandmother
look at you.”
Sophie Mol was led to Mammachi. Mammachi pushed her dark glasses up into her
hair. They looked up like slanting cat’s eyes at the moldy bison head. The moldy bison
said, “No. Absolutely Not.” In Moldy Bisonese.
Even after her cornea transplant, Mammachi could only see light and shadow. If
somebody was standing in the doorway, she could tell that someone was standing in the
doorway. But not who it was. She could read a check, or a receipt, or a banknote only if
it was close enough for her eyelashes to touch it. She would then hold it steady, and
move her eye along it. Wheeling it from word to word.
The Townspeople (in her fairy frock) saw Mammachi draw Sophie Mol close to her
eyes to look at her. To read her like a check. To check her like a banknote. Mammachi
(with her better eye) saw redbrown hair (N… Nalmost blond), the curve of two
fatfreckled cheeks (Nnnn… almost rosy), bluegrayblue eyes.
“Pappachi’s nose,” Mammachi said. “Tell me, are you a pretty girl?” she asked Sophie
“Yes,” Sophie Mol said.
“Tall for my age,” Sophie Mol said.
“Very tall,” Baby Kochamma said. “Much taller than Estha.”
“She’s older,” Ammu said.
“Still …” Baby Kochamma said.
A little way away, Velutha walked up the shortcut through the rubber trees.
Barebodied. A coil of insulated electrical wire was looped over one shoulder. He wore
his printed dark-blue-andblack mundu loosely folded up above his knees. On his back,
his lucky leaf from the birthmark tree (that made the monsoons come on time). His
autumn leaf at night.
Before he emerged through the trees and stepped into the driveway, Rahel saw him
and slipped out of the Play and went to him.
Ammu saw her go.
Offstage, she watched them perform their elaborate Official Greeting. Velutha curtsied
as he had been taught to, his mundu spread like a skirt, like the English dairymaid in
“The King’s Breakfast” Rahel bowed (and said “Bow”). Then they hooked little fingers
and shook hands gravely with the mien of bankers at a convention.
In the dappled sunlight filtering through the dark-green trees, Ammu watched Velutha
lift her daughter effortlessly as though she was an inflatable child, made of air. As he
tossed her up and she landed in his arms, Ammu saw on Rahel’s face the high delight
of the airborne young.
She saw the ridges of muscle on Velutha’s stomach grow taut and rise under his skin
like the divisions on a slab of chocolate. She wondered at how his body had changed—
so quietly, from a flatmuscled boy’s body into a man’s body. Contoured and hard. A
“The God of Small Things” By Arundhati Roy 84
swimmer’s body. A swimmer-carpenter’s body. Polished with a high-wax body polish.
He had high cheekbones and a white, sudden smile.
It was his smile that reminded Ammu of Velutha as a little boy. Helping Vellya Paapen
to count coconuts. Holding out little gifts he had made for her, flat on the palm of his
hand so that she could take them without touching him. Boats, boxes, small windmills.
Calling her Ammukutty. Little Ammu. Though she was so much less little than he was.
When she looked at him now, she couldn’t help thinking that the man he had become
bore so little resemblance to the boy he had been. His smile was the only piece of
baggage he had carried with him from boyhood into manhood.
Suddenly Ammu hoped that it had been him that Rahel saw in the march. She hoped
it had been him that had raised his flag and knotted arm in anger. She hoped that under
his careful cloak of cheerfulness he housed a living, breathing anger against the smug,
ordered world that she so raged against.
She hoped it had been him.
She was surprised at the extent of her daughter’s physical ease with him. Surprised
that her child seemed to have a sub-world that excluded her entirely. A tactile world of
smiles and laughter that she, her mother, had no part in. Ammu recognized vaguely that
her thoughts were shot with a delicate, purple tinge of envy. She didn’t allow herself to
consider who it was that she envied. The man or her own child. Or just their world of
hooked fingers and sudden smiles.
The man standing in the shade of the rubber trees with coins of sunshine dancing on
his body, holding her daughter in his arms, glanced up and caught Ammu’s gaze.
Centuries telescoped into one evanescent moment. History was wrong-footed, caught
off guard. Sloughed off like an old snakeskin. Its marks, its scars, its wounds from old
wars and the walking-backwards days all fell away. In its absence it left an aura, a
palpable shimmering that was as plain to see as the water in a river or the sun in the
sky. As plain to feel as the heat on a hot day, or the rug of a fish on a taut line. So
obvious that no one noticed.
In that brief moment, Velutha looked up and saw things that he hadn’t seen before.
For instance, he saw that Rahel’s mother was a woman.
That she had deep dimples when she smiled and that they stayed on long after her
smile left her eyes. He saw that her brown arms were round and firm and perfect That
her shoulders shone, but her eyes were somewhere else. He saw that when he gave
her gifts they no longer needed to be offered flat on the palms of his hands so that she
wouldn’t have to touch him. His boats and boxes. His little windmills. He saw too that he
was not necessarily the only giver of gifts. That she had gifts to give him, too.
This knowing slid into him cleanly, like the sharp edge of a knife. Cold and hot at once.
It only took a moment.
Ammu saw that he saw. She looked away. He did too. History’s fiends returned to
claim them. To re-wrap them in its old, scarred pelt and drag them back to where they
really lived. Where the Love Laws lay down who should be loved. And how. And how
Ammu walked up to the verandah, back into the Play. Shaking.
Velutha looked down at Ambassador S. Insect in his arms. He put her down. Shaking
“And look at you!” he said, looking at her ridiculous frothy frock. “So beautiful! Getting
Rahel lunged at his armpits and tickled him mercilessly. Ickilee ickilee ickilee!
“I saw you yesterday,” she said.
“Where?” Velutha made his voice high and surprised.
“Liar,” Rahel said. “Liar and pretender. I did see you. You were a Communist and had
a shirt and a flag. And you ignored me.”
“The God of Small Things” By Arundhati Roy 85
that? It rnust’ve been my Long-lost Twin brother.”
“Which Long-lost Twin brother?”
“Urumban, silly… The one who lives in Kochi.”
“Who Urumban?” Then she saw the twinkle. “Liar! You haven’t got a Twin brother! It
wasn’t Urumban! It was you!”
Velutha laughed. He had a lovely laugh that he really meant.
“Wasn’t me,” he said. “I was sick in bed.”
“See, you’re smiling!” Rahel said. “That means it was you. Smiling means ‘It was you.’”
“That’s only in English!” Velutha said. “In Malayalam my teacher always said that
`Smiling means it wasn’t me.’”
It took Rahel a moment to sort that one out. She lunged at him once again. Ickike
Still laughing, Velutha looked into the Play for Sophie. “Where’s our Sophie Mol? Let’s
take a look at her. Did you remember to bring her, or did you leave her behind?”
“Don’t look there,” Rahel said urgently.
She stood up on the cement parapet that separated the rubber trees from the
driveway, and clapped her hands over Velutha’s eyes.
“Why?” Velutha said.
“Because,” Rahel said, “I don’t want you to.”
“Where’s Estha Mon?” Velutha said, with an Ambassador (disguised as a Stick Insect
disguised as an Airport Fairy) hanging down his back with her legs wrapped around his
waist, blindfolding him with her sticky little hands. “I haven’t seen him.”
“Oh, we sold him in Cochin,” Rahel said airily. “For a bag of rice. And a torch.”
The froth of her stiff frock pressed rough lace flowers into Velutha’s back. Lace flowers
and a lucky leaf bloomed on a black back.
But when Rahel searched the Play for Estha, she saw that he wasn’t there.
Back inside the Play, Kochu Maria arrived, short, behind her tall cake.
“Cake’s come,” she said, a little loudly, to Mammachi. Kochu Maria always spoke a
little loudly to Mammachi because she assumed that poor eyesight automatically
affected the other senses.
“Kandoo Kochu Mariye?” Mammachi said. “Can you see our Sophie Mol?”
“Kandoo, Kochamma,” Kochu Maria said extra loud. “I can see her.”
She smiled at Sophie Mol, extra wide. She was exactly Sophie Mol’s height. More
short than Syrian Christian, despite her best efforts.
“She has her mother’s color,” Kochu Maria said.
“Pappachi’s nose,” Mammachi insisted.
“I don’t know about that, but she’s very beautiful,” Kochu Maria shouted. “Sundari
kutty. She’s a little angel.”
Littleangels were beach-colored and wore bell-bottoms. Littledemons were mudbrown
in Airport-Fairy frocks with forehead bumps that might turn into horns. With Fountains in
Love-in-Tokyos. And backwards-reading habits.
And if you cared to look, you could see Satan in their eyes. Kochu Maria took both
Sophie Mol’s hands in hers, palms upward, raised them to her face and inhaled deeply.
“What’s she doing?” Sophie Mol wanted to know, tender London hands clasped in
calloused Ayemenem ones. “Who’s she and why’s she smelling my hands?”
“She’s the cook,” Chacko said. “That’s her way of kissing you.”
“Kissing?” Sophie Mol was unconvinced, but interested. “How marvelous!” Margaret
Kochamma said. “It’s a sort of sniffing! Do the Men and Women do it to each other too?”
She hadn’t meant it to sound quite like that, and she blushed. An embarrassed
schoolteacher-shaped Hole in the Universe.
“Oh, all the time!” Ammu said, and it came out a little louder than the sarcastic mumble
“The God of Small Things” By Arundhati Roy 86
that she had intended. “That’s how we make babies.”
Chacko didn’t slap her.
So she didn’t slap him back.
But the Waiting Air grew Angry.
“I think you owe my wife an apology, Ammu,” Chacko said, with a protective, proprietal
air (hoping that Margaret Kochamma wouldn’t say “Ex-wife Chacko!” and wag a rose at
“Oh no!” Margaret Kochamma said. “It was my fault! I never meant it to sound quite
like that… what I meant was—I mean it is fascinating to think that—”
“It was a perfectly legitimate question,” Chacko said. “And I think Ammu ought to
“Must we behave like some damn godforsaken tribe that’s just been discovered?”
“Oh dear,” Margaret Kochamma said.
In the angry quietness of the Play (the Blue Army in the greenheat still watching),
Ammu walked back to the Plymouth, took out her suitcase, slammed the door, and
walked away to her room, her shoulders shining. Leaving everybody to wonder where
she had learned her effrontery from.
And truth be told, it was no small wondering matter.
Because Ammu had not had the kind of education, nor read the sorts of books, nor
met the sorts of people, that might have influenced her to think the way she did.
She was just that sort of animal.
As a child, she had learned very quickly to disregard the Father Bear Mother Bear
stories she was given to read. In her version, Father Bear beat Mother Bear with brass
vases. Mother Bear suffered those beatings with mute resignation.
In her growing years, Ammu had watched her father weave his hideous web. He was
charming and urbane with visitors, and stopped just short of fawning on them if they
happened to be white. He donated money to orphanages and leprosy clinics. He worked
hard on his public profile as a sophisticated, generous, moral man. But alone with his
wife and children he turned into a monstrous, suspicious bully, with a streak of vicious
cunning. They were beaten, humiliated and then made to suffer the envy of friends and
relations for having such a wonderful husband and father.
Ammu had endured cold winter nights in Delhi hiding in the mehndi hedge around
their house (in case people from Good Families saw them) because Pappachi had come
back from work out of sorts, and beaten her and Mammachi and driven them out of their
On one such night, Ammu, aged nine, hiding with her mother in the hedge, watched
Pappachi’s natty silhouette in the lit windows as he flitted from room to room. Not
content with having beaten his wife and daughter (Chacko was away at school), he tore
down curtains, kicked furniture and smashed a table lamp. An hour after the lights went
out, disdaining Mammachi’s frightened pleading, little Ammu crept back into the house
through a ventilator to rescue her new gumboots that she loved more than anything
else. She put them in a paper bag and crept back into the drawing room when the lights
were suddenly switched on.
Pappachi had been sitting in his mahogany rocking chair all along, rocking himself
silently in the dark. When he caught her, he didn’t say a word. He flogged her with his
ivory-handled riding crop (the one that he had held across his lap in his studio
photograph). Ammu didn’t cry. When he finished beating her he made her bring him
Mammachi’s pinking shears from her sewing cupboard. While Ammu watched, the
Imperial Entomologist shred her new gumboots with her mother’s pinking shears. The
strips of black rubber fell to the floor. The scissors made snicking scissor-sounds. Ammu
ignored her mother’s drawn, frightened face that appeared at the window. It took ten
minutes for her beloved gumboots to be completely shredded. When the last strip of
rubber had rippled to the floor, her father looked at her with cold, flat eyes, and rocked
“The God of Small Things” By Arundhati Roy 87
and rocked and rocked. Surrounded by a sea of twisting rubber snakes.
developed a lofty sense of injustice and the mulish, reckless streak that develops in
Someone Small who has been bullied all their lives by Someone Big. She did exactly
nothing to avoid quarrels and confrontations. In fact, it could be argued that she sought
them out, perhaps even enjoyed them.
“Has she gone?” Mammachi asked the silence around her.
“She’s gone,” Kochu Maria said loudly.
“Are you allowed to say `damn’ in India?” Sophie Mol asked.
“Who said ‘damn’?” Chacko asked.
“She did,” Sophie Mol said. “Aunty Ammu. She said some damn godforsaken tribe.’”
“Cut the cake and give everybody a piece,” Mammachi said. “Because in England,
we’re not,” Sophie Mol said to Chacko. “Not what?” Chacko said.
“Allowed to say Dee Ay Em En,” Sophie Mol said. Mammachi looked sightlessly out
into the shining afternoon. “Is everyone here?” she asked.
“Oower Kochamma,” the Blue Army in the greenheat said. “We’re all here.”
Outside the Play, Rahel said to Velutha: “We’re not here are we? We’re not even
“That is Exactly Right,” Velutha said. “We’re not even Playing. But what I would like to
know is, where is our Esthapappychachen Kuttappen Peter Mon?”
And that became a delighted, breathless, Rumpelstiltskin-like dance among the rubber
Oh Esthapappychachen Kuttappen Peter Mon.
Where, oh where have you gon?
And from Rumpelstiltskin it graduated to the Scarlet Pimpernel.
We seek him here, we seek him there,
Those Frenchies seek him everywhere.
Is be in heaven? Is be in hell?
That demmedel-usive Estha –Pen?
Kochu Maria cut a sample piece of cake for Mammachi’s approval.
“One piece each,” Mammachi confirmed to Kochu Maria, touching the piece lightly
with rubyringed fingers to see if it was small enough.
Kochu Maria sawed up the rest of the cake messily, laboriously, breathing through her
mouth, as though she was carving a hunk of roast lamb. She put the pieces on a large
Mammachi played a Welcome Home, Our Sophie Mol melody on her violin.
A cloying, chocolate melody. Stickysweet, and meltybrown. Chocolate waves on a
In the middle of the melody, Chacko raised his voice over the chocolate sound.
“Mamma!” he said (in his Reading Aloud voice). “Mamma! That’s enough! Enough
Mammachi stopped playing and looked in Chacko’s direction, the bow poised in
“Enough? D’you think that’s enough, Chacko?”
“More than enough,” Chacko said.
“Enough’s enough,” Mammachi murmured to herself. “I think I’ll stop now.” As though
the idea had suddenly occurred to her.
She put her violin away into its black, violin-shaped box. It closed like a suitcase. And
the music closed with it.
Click. And click.
Mammachi put her dark glasses on again. And drew the drapes across the hot day.
“The God of Small Things” By Arundhati Roy 88
Ammu emerged from the house and called to Rahel. “Rahel! I want you to have your
afternoon nap! Come in after you’ve had your cake!”
Rahel’s heart sank. Afternoon Gnap. She hated those.
Ammu went back indoors.
Velutha put Rahel down, and she stood forlornly at the edge of the driveway, on the
periphery of the Play, a Gnap looming large and nasty on her horizon.
“And please stop being so over-familiar with that man!” Baby Kochamma said to
“Over-familiar?” Mammachi said. “Who is it, Chacko? Who’s being over-familiar?”
“Rahel,” Baby Kochamma said.
“Over-familiar with who?” “With whom,” Chacko corrected his mother. “All right, with
whom is she being over-familiar?” Mammachi asked.
“Your Beloved Velutha—whom else?” Baby Kochamma said, and to Chacko, “Ask him
where he was yesterday. Let’s bell the cat once and for all.”
“Not now,” Chacko said.
“`What’s over-familiar?” Sophie Mol asked Margaret Kochamma, who didn’t answer.
“Velutha? Is Velutha here? Are you here?” Mammachi asked the Afternoon.
“Oower, Kochamma.” He stepped through the trees into the Play.
“Did you find out what it was?” Mammachi asked.
“The washer in the foot-valve,” Velutha said. “I’ve changed it. It’s working now.”
“Then switch it on,” Mammachi said. “The tank is empty.”
“That man will be our Nemesis,” Baby Kochamma said. Not because she was
clairvoyant and had had a sudden flash of prophetic vision. Just to get him into trouble.
Nobody paid her any attention.
“Mark my words,” she said bitterly.
“See her?” Kochu Maria said when she got to Rahel with her tray of cake. She meant
Sophie Mol. “When she grows up, she’ll be our Kochamma, and she’ll raise our salaries,
and give us nylon saris for Onam.” Kochu Maria collected saris, though she hadn’t ever
worn one, and probably never would.
“So what?” Rahel said. “By then I’ll be living in Africa.”
“Africa?” Kochu Maria sniggered. “Africa’s full of ugly black people and mosquitoes.”
“You’re the one who’s ugly,” Rahel said, and added (in English) “Stupid dwarf!”
“What did you say?” Kochu Maria said threateningly. “Don’t tell me. I know. I heard. I’ll
tell Mammachi. Just wait!”
Rahel walked across to the old well where there were usually some ants to kill. Red
ants that had a sour farty smell when they were squashed. Kochu Maria followed her
with the tray of cake.
Rahel said she didn’t want any of the stupid cake.
“Kushumbi, ” Kochu Maria said. “Jealous people go straight to hell.”
“I don’t know. You tell me,” Kochu Maria said, with a frilly apron and a vinegar heart
colored. Sophie Mol, standing between Margaret Kochamma and Chacko, looked as
though she ought to be slapped. Rahel found a whole column of juicy ants. They were
on their way to church. All dressed in red. They had to be killed before they got there.
Squished and squashed with a stone. You can’t have smelly ants in church.
The ants made a faint crunchy sound as life left them. Like an elf eating toast or a
The Antly Church would be empty and the Antly Bishop would wait in his funny Antly
Bishop clothes, swinging Frankincense in a silver pot. And nobody would arrive.
After he had waited for a reasonably Antly amount of time, he would get a funny Antly
Bishop frown on his forehead, and shake his head sadly. He would look at the glowing
“The God of Small Things” By Arundhati Roy 89
Antly stained-glass windows and when he finished looking at them, he would lock the
church with an enormous key and make it dark. Then he’d go home to his wife and (if
she wasn’t dead) they’d have an Antly Afternoon Gnap.
Sophie Mol, hatted bell-bottomed and Loved from the Beginning, walked out of the
Play to see what Rahel was doing behind the well. But the Play went with her. Walked
when she walked, stopped when she stopped. Fond smiles followed her. Kochu Maria
moved the cake tray out of the way of her adoring downwards smile as Sophie squatted
down in the well-squelch (yellow bottoms of bells muddy wet now).
Sophie Mol inspected the smelly mayhem with clinical detachment. The stone was
coated with crushed red carcasses and a few feebly waving legs.
Kochu Maria watched with her cake crumbs.
The Fond Smiles watched Fondly.
Little Girls Playing.
One Loved a Little Less.
“Let’s leave one alive so that it can be lonely,” Sophie Mol suggested.
Rahel ignored her and killed them all. Then in her frothy Airport Frock with matching
knickers (no longer crisp) and unmatching sunglasses, she ran away. Disappeared into
sweetcousins were playing hide-and-seek, like sweetcousins often do.
Mrs. Pillai, Mrs. Eapen, Mrs. Rajagopalan
The green-for-the-day had seeped from the trees. Dark palm leaves were splayed like
drooping combs against the monsoon sky. The orange sun slid through their bent,
A squadron of fruit bats sped across the gloom.
In the abandoned ornamental garden, Rahel, watched by lolling dwarfs and a forsaken
cherub, squatted by the stagnant pond and watched toads hop from stone to scummy
stone. Beautiful Ugly Toads.
Slimy. Warty. Croaking.
Yearning, unkissed princes trapped inside them. Food for snakes that lurked in the
long June grass. Rustle. Lunge. No more toad to hop from stone to scummy stone. No
more prince to kiss.
It was the first night since she’d come that it hadn’t rained. Around now, Rahel
thought, if this were Washington, I would be on my way to work. The bus ride. The
streetlights. The gas fumes. The shapes of people’s breath on the bulletproof glass of
my cabin. The clatter of coins pushed towards me in the metal tray. The smell of money
on my fingers. The punctual drunk with sober eyes who arrived exactly at 10.00 P.M.:
“Hey you! Black bitch! Suck my dick!”
She owned seven hundred dollars. And a gold bangle with snakeheads. But Baby
Kochamma had already asked her how much longer she planned to stay. And what she
planned to do about Estha.
She had no plans.
“The God of Small Things” By Arundhati Roy 90
No L…custs Stand I.
She looked back at the looming, gabled, house-shaped Hole in the Universe and
imagined living in the silver bowl that Baby Kochamma had installed on the roof. It
homes. Bigger, for instance, than Kochu Maria’s cramped quarters.
If they slept there, she and Estha, curled together like fetuses in a shallow steel womb,
what would Hulk Hogan and Bam Bam Bigelow do? If the dish were occupied, where
would they go? Would they slip through the chimney into Baby Kochamma’s life and
TV? Would they land on the old stove with a Heeaugh!, in their muscles and spangled
clothes? Would the Thin People—the famine-victims and refugees—slip through the
cracks in the doors? Would Genocide slide between the tiles?
The sky was thick with TV. If you wore special glasses you could see them spinning
through the sky among the bats and homing birds-blondes, wars, famines, football, food
shows, coups d’ etat, hairstyles stiff with hair spray. Designer pectorals. Gliding towards
Ayemenem like skydivers. Making patterns in the sky. Wheels. Windmills. Flowers
blooming and unblooming.
Rahel returned to contemplating toads.
Fat. Yellow. From stone to scummy stone. She touched one gently. It moved its
eyelids upwards. Funnily self-assured.
saying. She and Estha and Sophie Mol.
They were, all three of them, wearing saris (old ones, torn in half) that day. Estha was
the draping expert. He pleated Sophie Mol’s pleats. Organized Rahel’s pallu and settled
his own. They had red bindis on their foreheads. In the process of trying to wash out
Ammu’s forbidden kohl, they had smudged it all over their eyes, and on the whole
looked like three raccoons trying to pass off as Hindu ladies. It was about a week after
Sophie Mol arrived. A week before she died. By then she had performed unfalteringly
under the twins’ perspicacious scrutiny and had confounded all their expectations.
(a) Informed Chacko that even though he was her Real Father, she loved him less
than Joe (which left him available—even if not inclined—to be the surrogate father of
certain two-egg persons greedy for his affection).
(b) Turned down Mammachi’s offer that she replace Estha and Rahel as the privileged
plaiter of Mammachi’s nightly rat’s tail and counter of moles.
(c) (& Most Important) Astutely gauged the prevailing temper, and not just rejected,
but rejected outright and extremely rudely, all of Baby Kochamma’s advances and small
As if this were not enough, she also revealed herself to be human. One day the twins
returned from a clandestine trip to the river (which had excluded Sophie Mol), and found
her in the garden in tears, perched on the highest point of Baby Kochamma’s Herb Curl,
“Being Lonely,” as she put it. The next day Estha and Rahel took her with them to visit
They visited him in saris, clumping gracelessly through red mud and long grass
(nictitating ictitating tating ating ting ing) and introduced themselves as Mrs. Pillai, Mrs.
Documents you may be interested
Documents you may be interested