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Ghachar Ghochar (2013)

by Vivek Shanbhag

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
4582254,212 (3.81)53
For readers of Akhil Sharma, Mohsin Hamid, and Teju Cole, a haunting novel about an upwardly mobile family splintered by success in rapidly changing India. "It's true what they say--it's not we who control money, it's the money that controls us." In this masterful novel by the acclaimed Indian writer Vivek Shanbhag, a close-knit family is delivered from near-destitution to sudden wealth after the narrator's uncle founds a successful spice company. As the narrator--a sensitive young man who is never named--his sister, his parents, and his uncle move from a cramped, ant-infested shack to a larger house and begin to grow accustomed to their newfound wealth, the family dynamics begin to shift. Allegiances and desires realign; marriages are arranged and begin to falter; and conflict brews ominously in the background. Things begin to become "ghachar ghochar"--a nonsense phrase that, to the narrator, comes to mean something entangled beyond repair. Told in clean, urgent prose, 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"--… (more)
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» See also 53 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 22 (next | show all)
Longlisted for the International Dublin Literary Award and nominated for the 2018 BTBA Best Translated Book Award, Ghachar Ghockar — a colloquial phrase that means 'entangled' is a deceptively simple novella about a rags-to-riches family in India.

The unnamed narrator begins by explaining his relationship to Vincent, a waiter at the nearby Coffee House, who seems to be a sort of guru who can understand his customers without needing to be told their troubles. Naïvely, he takes a random comment from Vincent as advice and breaks up with his girlfriend Chitra on the strength of it. It turns out that this is typical of our narrator's inability to take responsibility for his own life.

A second reading of this short novel shows just how unreliable he is as a narrator.

(He says) he goes to the Coffee House for a respite from domestic skirmishes.

These skirmishes have come about as the family transitions from poverty into the middle class. The family had been close, had shared what little they had, and had lived in harmony together despite their privations. When Venkatachala, his father’s younger brother took the initiative and started up a spice business, it brought improvements in their standard of living — and joy —that was shared by them all.

[caption id="attachment_127115" align="alignright" width="150"] Chivda, a snack made from fried cashews, golden raisins, rice poha, peanuts and coconut slices.[/caption]
"Chikkappa* saved for months from his small income before managing to bring cooking gas to our kitchen. Along with it came a table for the stove to rest on. There was such a bustle of excitement and anticipation at home the day gas arrived. The workmen who brought home the cylinder and stove only placed them in the middle of the kitchen, put them together, showed us the flame, and left. We had already decided where to install the stove, but we went over the matter again at some length just to prolong the moment. Amma repeated at least ten times that she’d heard tea could be made in five minutes on a gas stove. She wondered if food cooked standing up would be as tasty. She joked: ‘Don’t ask me for tea again and again simply because it will be quick to make.’ We had a long session about how the gas cylinder ought to be turned on and off to ensure maximum safety. Appa warned Amma: ‘Watch carefully now. You’ll forget everything otherwise.’ And she listened quietly without putting up a fight. Amma had surveyed the neighborhood about its gas usage patterns. She told us how long a cylinder lasted in each neighbour’s house and how it could be stretched. ‘If it’s used only for urgent cooking, it lasts two months,’ she said. ‘Even when it’s run out, it seems you can turn the cylinder upside down and get a little more.’ The inaugural preparation was to be a round of tea. I was sent out to buy some chivda for accompaniment." (p.42)

However, because they depend on Chikkappa for their income, this displaces the traditional hierarchy of family relationships. Appa, the traditional head of the family is sidelined...

To read the rest of my review please visit https://anzlitlovers.com/2024/03/01/ghachar-ghochar-2013-by-vivek-shanbhag-trans... ( )
  anzlitlovers | Feb 29, 2024 |
I’m sorry, but any book which ends with the words of its title is a recipe for a low score in my opinion - it was a tacky, gimmicky end to a tepid story of an Indian family which left a bad taste in the mouth after a harmless read. In parts, it was an astutely observed family drama, concerning their change of fortunes and rise in social standing. Dynamics consequently changed and the narrator’s reflection on the gains and losses in relation to their new found wealth was the strongest part of the book. Outside of this, mainly concerning plot and resolutions of story arcs, (for want of a better way to describe it) it felt that we were left with endless strands of story left unanswered or unexplored, so much so that it didn’t feel like a narrative device but instead just lazy storytelling or an abandonment of what might’ve been a bigger novel. I guess I just wanted more than a snapshot of their lives. I wanted Shanbhag to tell me what happened: where did his wife go? Did she return? Who was the woman at their door? How did the family learn to live together? The more I think of these questions and lack of answers, the more I feel that a book should do more than this. It had promise, was readable but ultimately disappointed. ( )
  Dzaowan | Feb 15, 2024 |
I nearly gave up halfway through this. Heartened, though, by other reviewers I persevered & I’m glad I did. The narrator warns that to understand his story, you’ll have to learn a lot about his family first. And he’s right, in that the family stuff is absolutely necessary, but also in that it’s a lot, such an awful lot. By the halfway point, though, he begins talking about himself and the book takes on a wonderful density & texture. The writing, too, becomes more complex: there are some gorgeous passages about the narrator’s inhaling his wife’s neck, her clothes.

Some reviewers have called what happens at the book’s end an unexpected twist, but if you’ve taken in everything our narrator has said, the seeming surprise is as inevitable as every other fact of life in a ghachar ghochar world. ( )
  susanbooks | Dec 30, 2023 |
Great story about a completely vacuous person who can't imagine doing anything for himself or for anyone else and limits himself to the mildest hand wringing and most limited self awareness about his passive role and the situation he's ended up in.
( )
  tombomp | Oct 31, 2023 |
Short but a rivetting novella. ( )
  Santhosh_Guru | Oct 19, 2023 |
Showing 1-5 of 22 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (1 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Vivek Shanbhagprimary authorall editionscalculated
Perur, SrinathTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Samuelsson, PeterTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Schreiber, DanielTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Turle, BernardTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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In memory of Yashwant Chittal
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Vincent is a waiter at Coffee House.
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For readers of Akhil Sharma, Mohsin Hamid, and Teju Cole, a haunting novel about an upwardly mobile family splintered by success in rapidly changing India. "It's true what they say--it's not we who control money, it's the money that controls us." In this masterful novel by the acclaimed Indian writer Vivek Shanbhag, a close-knit family is delivered from near-destitution to sudden wealth after the narrator's uncle founds a successful spice company. As the narrator--a sensitive young man who is never named--his sister, his parents, and his uncle move from a cramped, ant-infested shack to a larger house and begin to grow accustomed to their newfound wealth, the family dynamics begin to shift. Allegiances and desires realign; marriages are arranged and begin to falter; and conflict brews ominously in the background. Things begin to become "ghachar ghochar"--a nonsense phrase that, to the narrator, comes to mean something entangled beyond repair. Told in clean, urgent prose, 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"--

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