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Ghachar Ghochar is a very short and darkly comic novel that explores the problems a family encounters when making the socioeconomic leap from scraping by to being well off. The unnamed narrator lives in a small house in Bangalore with his parents, sister, and uncle. When his father loses his job, he decides to risk it all and start his own spice company with his younger brother. They purchase large amounts of spices wholesale and repackage them in smaller, more convenient packets. The business is successful, the family moves to a larger home, and the son collects a comfortable monthly salary for doing nothing at all.
But the change in status is not totally positive. The family members that struggled together are now more often at one another's throats, and they seem to have more ties to the objects they purchase than to one another. When the narrator marries the girl of his dreams, trouble rears its ugly head. Anita is appalled to learn that her husband doesn't really work; how can a man have any pride or sense of identity if all he does is sit around and rely on his family's money and a future inheritance? She questions the ethics of his shady uncle and the family's cruel rejection of a woman with apparent ties to him.
The framework here is that the narrator is telling his story to Vincent, a waiter in a cafe that he frequents and who he seems to believe has special insights. There's an unexpected twist at the end--one that came a bit too abruptly for this reader. I would have liked the author to have fleshed out the story a bit; there's definitely room for some deeper characterization. It's a quick read, good for an evening's entertainment.
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This novella shows what a talented fiction writer can do. The family drama that plays out within this six member South Indian will stick with me for a long time. It's left for the reader to decide whether an actual murder takes place or is purely aspirational. You decide.