Book Review Ghachar Ghochar by Vivek Shanbhag-Translated by Srinath Perur

It’s all Ghachar Ghochar!!

I must confess. I have always resisted books that have been translated. When a book is rewritten as a translation from another language, somewhere the true essence of the story is lost. But here is a book that proved me wrong. Ghachar Ghochar is a fascinating book originally written in Kannada by Vivek Shanbhag and translated into English by Srinath Perur. Different from the currently trending Indian writing in English, in just around 30,000 words, it holds a story that has been so well told. Ghachar Ghochar is seemingly a novella in its truest sense, but it surely is a read that would make you appreciate the joy that reading holds.

“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 ShanbhagGhachar Ghochar

It’s a narrative that begins in a coffee shop in Bangalore. A well-known name indeed, one that hasn’t changed much in over a hundred years, despite the various changes the city has undergone. At the heart of the book is the story of a humble middle class family and the economic forces that’s wound around them. A successful spice business changes their fortunes overnight. And when their cramped home is infested with a swarm of ants, the family uses the good fortune to move to a larger home. Slowly, family equations begin to change and anxiety begins to creep in. All of a sudden the close-knit family circuit begins to feel claustrophobic. One by one, the once existent peace of mind and happiness disappears making way for stress and clashes within the family. That’s when it all goes Ghachar Ghochar (a sort of nonsensical phrase that one of the characters in the book uses, to denote utter chaos).

It is a narration that gives an intimate Peek into middle class life and the migration from a humble living to one of riches, when one has to come in terms with having excess in life. There are comic descriptions that entertain, as well as dialogues that are intense. Elegantly written and punctuated with moments of unexpected warmth and humor. There are precise observations, with a perfect narrative progression. Srinath Perur and his fabulous translation bring out the perfect level of irony and undercurrent the book carries within it.

Ghachar Ghochar is an enthralling novella, quiet yet deeply thought provoking too. It is a book that reflects the consequences of a shift in lifestyle in contemporary middle class India. A wonderfully designed book cover, Ghachar Ghochar is a master stroke. Take it as a light read, or as a book that stirs your thoughts within. But this book will stay with you beyond that last page.


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