Book Review: Ghacchar Ghocchar by Vivek Shanbhag

“Language communicates in terms of what is already known; it chokes up when asked to deal with the entirely unprecedented.” ~ Vivek Shanbhag in Ghacchar Ghocchar

The Backstory

There are few books that bring warmth and happiness whenever you read them. Among them is a subset that manages to make you reflect on your personal life at the same time. Such books are worth reading at least once every year. ‘Ghacchar Ghocchar‘ falls in that category of books.

It is a book that was originally written in Kannada. I went to the bookstore to get the Kannada version but the manager said that it was sold out. So, I had to buy an English translation of the same (that too a hardbound version). So, I bought it anyway. BTW, I must say that I do feel happy when I read some of the Kannada words which have made their way into the English translation.

The Story

The story is narrated from the point of view of a male family member who deems himself to be a loser. Surprisingly, the name of the narrator is never mentioned.

The narrator lives with his separated sister Malati, mother, father, wife Anita, and uncle Venkatachala. He is the ‘director’ of his uncle’s company, but has no real powers. Even if he goes to the office, he does nothing significant. But he finds good amount of cash in his account, thanks to his uncle’s largesse. And, apparently, the narrator has no strong desire to change the status quo.

A single incident triggers the flashback where the narrator talks about the previous life of the entire family. One where everyone had carefully controlled spending limits. The second half of the book unravels the events that show how the narrator’s wife, a woman from a middle-class background, shakes up the status quo of a ‘rich family’.

Though I make sound a bit bland, the flow of the narrative in the book is like honey. Sweet and slow but steady. I was surprised to find that a writer can have such a deep impact on me in just 115 pages of narrative. I don’t want to reveal too many details. Go read it for yourself.

Money and Relationships

The title ‘Ghacchar Ghocchar‘ by itself has no meaning in any language. It’s just gibberish invented by the narrator’s wife/family. The book doesn’t have any thrilling narrative or great philosophical insight. It is based on the simple story of the relationship between a lower-middle-class family dynamics and the newly earned wealth acquired by its members.

The story shows how strong relationships within the family weaken and become strained when monetary considerations enter the scene. The author demonstrates how people refuse to compromise and build meaningful relationships when they find that money can meet a majority of their material needs.

It’s true what they say – it’s not we who control money, it’s the money that controls us. When there’s only a little, it behaves meekly; when it grows, it becomes brash and has its way with us.

~ Vivek Shanbhag in Ghacchar Ghocchar

Though I am yet to fully understand why I love the book, I feel it unravels how money makes us less accommodating, more arrogant and sometimes pathetically sad. Having seen some instances of this myself, the story encourages me to be a more empathetic human. I think that is the key takeaway from this book. I am not sure what you would takeaway from it, but I highly recommend this book.

One response to “Book Review: Ghacchar Ghocchar by Vivek Shanbhag”

  1. Beautiful review Nithesh!


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