And the air was full of Thoughts and Things to Say. But at times like these, only the Small Things are ever said. Big Things lurk unsaid inside.
She wore flowers in her hair and carried magic secrets in her eyes. She spoke to no one. She spent hours on the riverbank. She smoked cigarettes and had midnight swims...
But what was there to say? Only that there were tears. Only that Quietness and Emptiness fitted together like stacked spoons. Only that there was a snuffling in the hollows at the base of a lovely throat. Only that a hard honey-colored shoulder had a semicircle of teethmarks on it. Only that they held each other close, long after it was over. Only that what they shared that night was not happiness, but hideous grief. Only that once again they broke the Love Laws. That lay down who should be loved. And how. And how much.
Perhaps it’s true that things can change in a day. That a few dozen hours can affect the outcome of whole lifetimes. And that when they do, those few dozen hours, like the salvaged remains of a burned house—the charred clock, the singed photograph, the scorched furniture—must be resurrected from the ruins and examined. Preserved. Accounted for. Little events, ordinary things, smashed and reconstituted. Imbued with new meaning. Suddenly they become the bleached bones of a story.
He folded his fear into a perfect rose. He held it out in the palm of his hand. She took it from him and put it in her hair.
It is after all so easy to shatter a story. To break a chain of thought. To ruin a fragment of a dream being carried around carefully like a piece of porcelain. To let it be, to travel with it, as Velutha did, is much the harder thing to do.
Ammu said that human beings were creatures of habit, and it was amazing the kind of things one could get used to.
If he touched her, he couldn't talk to her, if he loved her he couldn't leave, if he spoke he couldn't listen, if he fought he couldn't win.
D’you know what happens when you hurt people?’ Ammu said. ‘When you hurt people, they begin to love you less. That’s what careless words do. They make people love you a little less.
As Estha stirred the thick jam he thought Two Thoughts and the Two Thoughts he thought were these: a) Anything can happen to anyone. and b) It is best to be prepared.
Nothing mattered much. Nothing much mattered. And the less it mattered the less it mattered. It was never important enough. Because Worse Things had happened. In the country that she came from poised forever between the terror of war and the horror of peace Worse Things kept happening.
Writers imagine that they cull stories from the world. I'm beginning to believe that vanity makes them think so. That it's actually the other way around. Stories cull writers from the world. Stories reveal themselves to us. The public narrative, the private narrative - they colonize us. They commission us. They insist on being told. Fiction and nonfiction are only different techniques of story telling. For reasons that I don't fully understand, fiction dances out of me, and nonfiction is wrenched out by the aching, broken world I wake up to every morning.
Being with him made her feel as though her soul had escaped from the narrow confines of her island country into the vast, extravagant spaces of his. He made her feel as though the world belonged to them- as though it lay before them like an opened frog on a dissecting table, begging to be examined.
There are things that you can't do - like writing letters to a part of yourself. To your feet or hair. Or heart.
Little events, ordinary things, smashed and reconstituted. Suddenly, they become the bleached bones of a story.
And there it was again. Another religion turned against itself. Another edifice constructed by the human mind, decimated by human nature.
When she listened to songs that she loved on the radio, something stirred inside her. A liquid ache spread under her skin, and she walked out of the world like a witch.
That it really began in the days when the Love Laws were made. The laws that lay down who should be loved, and how. And how much.
And when we look in through the windows, all we see are shadows. And when we try and listen, all we hear is a whispering. And we cannot understand the whispering, because our minds have been invaded by a war. A war that we have both won and lost. The very worst sort of war. A war that captures dreams and re-dreams them. A war that has made us adore our conquerors and despise ourselves.
If you are happy in a dream, Ammu, does that count? Estha asked. "Does what count?" "The happiness does it count?". She knew exactly what he meant, her son with his spoiled puff. Because the truth is, that only what counts, counts....."If you eat fish in a dream, does it count?" Does it mean you've eaten fish?.
Pointed in the wrong direction, trapped outside their own history and unable to retrace their steps because their footprints had been swept away.
She was perhaps too young to realize that what she assumed was her love for [him] was actually a tentative, timorous, acceptance of herself.
Impelled by feelings that were primal yet paradoxically wholly impersonal. Feelings of contempt born of inchoate, unacknowledged fear--civilization's fear of nature, men's fear of women, power's fear of powerlessness. Man's subliminal urge to destroy what he could neither subdue nor deify.
It is curious how sometimes the memory of death lives on for so much longer than the memory of the life that it purloined. Over the years, as the memory of Sophie Mol ... slowly faded, the Loss of Sophie Mol grew robust and alive. It was always there. Like a fruit in season. Every season. As permanent as a government job.
Anything's possible in Human Nature," Chacko said in his Reading Aloud voice. Talking to the darkness now, suddenly insensitive to his little fountain-haired niece. "Love. Madness. Hope. Infinite joy." Of the four things that were Possible in Human Nature, Rahel thought that Infinnate Joy sounded the saddest. Perhaps because of the way Chacko said it. Infinnate Joy. With a church sound to it. Like a sad fish with fins all over.
By then Esthappen and Rahel had learned that the world had other ways of breaking men. They were already familiar with the smell. Sicksweet. Like old roses on a breeze.
When she looked at him now, she couldn't help thinking that the man he had become bore so little resemblance to the boy he had been. His smile was the only piece of baggage he had carried with him from boyhood into manhood.
It is only now, these years later, that Rahel with adult hindsight recognized the sweetness of that gesture. A grown man entertaining three raccoons, treating them like real ladies. Instinctively colluding in the conspiracy of their fiction, taking care not to decimate it with adult carelessness. Or affection. It is after all so easy to shatter a story. To break a chain of thought. To ruin a fragment of a dream being carried around carefully like a piece of porcelain. To let it be, to travel with it, as Velutha did, is much the harder thing to do.
Ammu loved her children (of course), but their wide-eyed vulnerability and their willingness to love people who didn't really love them exasperated her and sometimes made her want to hurt them-- just as an education, a precaution.
With the certitude of a true believer, Vellya Paapen had assured the twins that there was no such thing in the world as a black cat. He said that there were only black cat chaped holes in the universe.
May in Ayemenem is a hot, brooding month. The days are long and humid. The river shrinks and black crows gorge on bright mangoes in still, dustgreen trees. Red bananas ripen. Jackfruits burst. Dissolute bluebottles hum vacuously in the fruity air. Then they stun themselves against clear windowpanes and die, fatly baffled in the sun.
When she looked at herself in her wedding photographs, Ammu felt the woman that looked back at her was someone else. A foolish jewelled bride. Her silk sunset-coloured sari shot with gold. Rings on every finger. White dots of sandalwood paste over her arched eye-brows. Looking at herself like this, Ammu's soft mouth would twist into a small, bitter smile at the memory - not of the wedding itself so much as the fact that she had permitted herself to be so painstakingly decorated before being led to the gallows. It seemed so absurd. So futile. Like polishing firewood.
Memory was that woman on the train. Insane in the way she sifted through dark things in a closet and emerged with the most unlikely ones - a fleeting look, a feeling. The smell of smoke. A windscreen wiper. A mother's marble eyes. Quite sane in the way she left huge tracts of darkness veiled. Unremembered.
They would grow up grappling with ways of living with what happened. They would try to tell themselves that in terms of geological time it was an insignificant event. Just a blink of the Earth Woman's eye. That Worse Things had happened. That Worse Things kept happening. But they would find no comfort in the thought.
The twins were too young to know that these were only history’s henchmen. Sent to square the books and collect the dues from those who broke its laws. Impelled by feelings that were primal yet paradoxically wholly impersonal. Feelings of contempt born of inchoate, unacknowledged fear—civilization’s fear of nature, men’s fear of women, power’s fear of powerlessness. Man’s subliminal urge to destroy what he could neither subdue nor deify.
The fact that something so fragile, so unbearably tender had survived, had been allowed to exist, was a miracle.
He walked on water. Perhaps. But could he have *swum* on land? In matching knickers and dark glasses? With his Fountain in a Love-in-Tokyo? In pointy shoes and a puff? Would he have had the imagination?.
They were not friends, Comdrade Pillai and Inspector Thomas Matthew, and they didn't trust each other. But they understood each other perfectly. They were both men whom childhood had abandoned without a trace. Men without curiosity. Without doubt. Both in their own way truly, terrifyingly, adult. They looked out into the world and never wondered how it worked, because they knew. They worked it. They were mechanics who serviced different parts of the same machine.
Rahel’s toy wristwatch had the time painted on it. Ten to two. One of her ambitions was to own a watch on which she could change the time whenever she wanted to (which according to her was what Time was meant for in the first place).
He remained restrained and strangely composed. It was a composure born of extreme provocation. It stemmed from a lucidity that lies beyond rage.
Oddly enough, it was he who had introduced the twins to Kathakali...He is searching for the beast that lives within him, Comrade Pillai had told them - frightened, wide-eyed children - when the ordinarily good natured Bhima began to bay and snarl. Which beast in particular, Comrade Pillai didn't say. Searching for the Man who lives in him was perhaps what he really meant, because certainly no beast has essayed the boundless, infinitely inventive art of human hatred. No beast can match its range and power.
To understand history,' Chacko said, 'we have to go inside and listen to what they're saying. And look at the books and the pictures on the wall. And smell the smells.
Anyway, now she thinks of Estha and Rahel as Them, because, separately, the two of them are no longer what They were or ever thought They would be. Ever. Their lives have a size and a shape now. Estha has his and Rahel hers. Edges, Borders, Boundaries, Brinks and Limits have appeared like a team of trolls on their separate horizons. Short creatures with long shadows, patrolling the Blurry End. Gentle half-moons have gathered under their eyes and they are as old as Ammu was when she died.
The God of Loss. The God of Small Things. He left no footprints in the sand, no ripples in water, no image in mirrors.
They looked at each other. They weren't thinking anymore. The time for that had come and gone. Smashed smiles lay ahead of them. But that would be later. Lay Ter.
They only asked for punishments that fitted their crimes. Not ones that came like cupboards with built-in bedrooms. Not ones you spent your whole life in, wandering through its maze of shelves.