Title: Ghachar Ghochar
Author: Vivek Shanbhag
Genre: Literary Fiction
Number of Pages: 118
A suddenly obtained fortune turns an enmeshed Indian family into a bunch of scheming wolves in Ghachar Ghochar, a brief and cynical study of human nature and peoples’ destructive love for the material. The unnamed narrator is an adult man who lives with his mom, dad, sister, uncle, and wife and a modest home that they struggle to all fit into. His dad is an honest man with a strong work ethic, and he’s absolutely heartbroken when he comes home and tells his family he’s lost his job. However, the man’s brother experiences a stroke of luck almost too good to be true when he starts a business that suddenly takes off.
Now that they have more money than they know what to do with, the protagonist decides there’s no conceivable reason to get a job and his wife becomes increasingly disappointed with him and his values. The newly rich prove they’re willing to do almost anything to maintain their newfound wealth, and they begin to hate one another more and more.
Ghachar Ghochar was one of those books I found intellectually engaging while otherwise being left emotionally cold by the characters and story. The only member of the protagonist’s family I felt any sympathy for whatsoever was the dad, who ironically was ridiculed as a ‘failure’ for being the only one of them with any moral compass. The way the story is written is simple while at the same time being compelling. It feels like not a single word is wasted and the scenes have a subtle sense of tension that you know can lead nowhere good.
I felt like the main character wasn’t given that much of a personality; he seemed to be a very reactionary presence throughout (which is probably why the author chose not to give him a name.) In the end I had to question how much the money ‘changed’ this guys family, I got the feeling that for the most part they were a bunch of bad eggs waiting for something to come along and bring out the worst in them. The ending is a bit ambiguous but leaves the reader unsettled and unsure how far these people will sink for greed.
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