Remembering Mary Roy, educator, activist and mother of Arundhati Roy, through her alter ego in The God Of Small Things

In her lifetime, Mary Roy achieves everything that Ammu, a character drawn from her life in the 1997 novel, The God of Little Things, can not. She wins a lawsuit in 1986 which allows Syrian Christian women to inherit property. Ammu, on the other hand, does not have “Locusts Stand I”. Mary Roy founded Corpus Christi High School (now Pallikoodam) in 1967, in a suburb of Kottayam town in Kerala. Ammu, mother of ‘twin egg twins’ Rahel and Esthappen or Estha, can only talk about the possibility of running a school one day, as she stands on a railway platform, bidding farewell to Estha who is at the latticed windows of the Madras Mail. “I will be a teacher. I will open a school. And you and Rahel will be in it.

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Things happen, but not favorably for Ammu, who is caught in a fictional universe where she must break the laws of love, and die alone in a strange room, at 31, “a viable, dieable age”. The death of an educator, activist and Arundhati RoyMary Roy’s Mother on September 1 this year is perhaps an appropriate elegiac moment to examine the life and transgressions, large and small, of Ammu, mother hazelnut in The God of Little Things.

Ayemenem, with its pickle factory, treacherous river, old church painted yellow, rice paddies and rubber trees, is where Ammu has to deal with the claustrophobia of her situation. She is divorced with fraternal twins, who has returned to the family home, Ayemenem House, where she is constantly reminded of the precariousness of her position as “wretched without a man”. women”. But Ammu shines with defiance; his observations are often tinged with wit; she has deep dimples and a tangerine-shaped transistor with which she sometimes wanders along the banks of the river. In a tale of haunting currencies and linguistic registers, Ammu appears, luminous, solitary and painfully vulnerable. In 1969, when she was 27 and driving to the airport in a sky blue Plymouth with her brother Chacko, her unmarried aunt Baby Kochamma and the twins, she “carried the cold knowledge that, for her, life had been lived.” It is this knowledge that gives her a disturbing bewilderment, which leads her to love inappropriately, to upset Ayemenem’s decorum, her old class and caste divisions. It is this knowledge which causes its annihilation.

The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy; Penguin; 355 pages; Rs 450. (Source: Amazon.in)

The Plymouth family are on their way to Cochin, where they will receive Margaret, Chacko’s ex-wife, and her daughter, the cousin of the twins Sophie, who arrived from London to spend Christmas in Ayemenem. Rahel and Estha were made to practice an English car song for the return from the airport, by Baby Kochamma. They were educated to receive Sophie Mol; they will present themselves to her as specimens of anthropological interest. “Do we have to behave like some newly discovered fucking abandoned tribe,” Ammu remarks at the Ayemenem house, where near-blind matriarch, widow, and fiddler Mammachi, cook Kochu Maria, and blue-aproned laborers of the Paradise Pickles & Preserves factory gathered to welcome strangers.

The arrival of Sophie Mol in Ayemenem unfolds the events that change the trajectories of small and suffocated lives. Events that increase unrest. As the family is absorbed in their welcome, Ammu’s attention shifts to Velutha, a Paravan with the firm, streamlined body of a swimmer. He lifted Rahel in his arms and threw her in the air. Just as Ammu and Velutha exchange a look, a new exquisite consciousness creeps in that threatens the order of things. This is where Ammu’s transformation lies, from mother to lover, from delicately chiseled to puffy-cheeked and phlegmatic, separated from her children and left to fend for herself.

The God of Small Things is about damned and disenfranchised women. These are women bubbling with unrequited passions that fester and become vinegary over the years. Baby Kochamma, for example, the great-aunt accomplice of the twins, falls in love at the age of 18 with an Irish monk, Father Mulligan. Hoping for a permitted closeness with him, she converts to Catholicism, and enters the convent of Madras as a novice nun. Unable to win his affection, she returns from the convent. Over the years, her cold cravings turn her into an embittered and manipulative resident of the Ayemenem house. But the novel also talks about Rahel, who is seven years old when Sophie Mol arrives in Ayemenem to hasten the course of their destinies. It’s about Rahel’s return to the Ayemenem house, 23 years later, to mourn Ammu again, and also to break some love laws. Ultimately though, The God of Little Things is about Ammu, who meddles in the story and is forced to pay for it.

Radhika Oberoi is the author of Stillborn Season, a novel set amid the anti-Sikh riots of 1984.