The Ministry of Utmost Happiness by Arundhati Roy
India and Pakistan are again close to the edge of war over Kashmir, a region of mountains and lakes that sits at the top of India and lies next to Pakistan. Both countries have been at odds over Kashmir since Partition in 1947.
Ministry is set in Delhi and Kashmir, and as with Dickens’ London and Hugo’s Paris, one comes away with an acute feel for the rhythms of life in both places and for their beauties and dangers. Roy’s characters are vivid in their individuality: a hijra (hermaphrodite) named Anjum, the soul of the novel; Tilo who raises an orphan at great risk and Musa, her lover and a guerilla leader for an independent Kashmir; Saddam, who rides a white horse through the streets of Delhi on his missions of kindness, and many others.
If you want a book that illuminates a part of the world and a conflict of which you may not have been aware, a novel whose narrative voice is strong without preaching, and whose characters grapple with life and death issues every day, then read from the Ministry, a book that provides emotional depth, moral seriousness, and a pageant of life that will remind you again of how much our common humanity matters.