A young man’s close-knit family is nearly destitute when his uncle founds a successful spice company, changing their fortunes overnight. As they move from a cramped, ant-infested shack to a larger house on the other side of Bangalore, and try to adjust to a new way of life, the family dynamic begins to shift. Allegiances realign; marriages are arranged and begin to falter; and conflict brews ominously in the background. Things become “ghachar ghochar”—a nonsense phrase uttered by one meaning something tangled beyond repair, a knot that can’t be untied.
Elegantly written and punctuated by moments of unexpected warmth and humor, Ghachar Ghochar is a quietly enthralling, deeply unsettling novel about the shifting meanings—and consequences—of financial gain in contemporary India.
Vivek Shanbhag’s “Ghachar Ghochar” envelops readers in vivid descriptions that flawlessly capture the essence of a simple, middle-class family entangled in financial intricacies. The rich descriptions effortlessly transport readers to their house, unveiling the family’s struggles as the members anticipate the inheritance of wealth upon the elders’ demise.
The narrative delves into a darker realm, yet the plot’s progression and eventual resolution in a twisted manner are commendable. However, it leaves lingering questions about the protagonists’ simultaneous attraction and disdain towards strong feminist figures. This dichotomy adds depth but demands further exploration.
Interestingly, similarities between the protagonists of “Sakina’s Kiss” and “Ghachar Ghochar” arise, sparking an almost sequenced feeling between the two tales. While the latter excels in character arcs, plot, and story development, the familiarity might diminish the freshness for those acquainted with both narratives. Parallel scenes post-marriage and the protagonist’s spinelessnes mirror each other, drawing uncanny resemblances.
Yet, “Ghachar Ghochar” stands as a complete, wholesome narrative. Shanbhag deftly employs metaphorical elements, notably the protagonist’s attitude towards harmless ants juxtaposed with his entitlement to extinguish them, echoing the ease with which some men kill women. This metaphor resounds powerfully, highlighting societal inequalities and the vulnerability of marginalized voices.
In essence, Shanbhag crafts a story that resonates with intricate storytelling and compelling metaphorical layers. While the similarities to “Sakina’s Kiss” might erode some novelty, the thematic depth and resounding metaphors elevate “Ghachar Ghochar” to a thought-provoking and impactful narrative.