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Ghachar Ghochar - Vivek Shanbhag (Translated by Srinath Perur)

Translated works from the regional languages of India have always fascinated me as they resonate a sense of simplicity that speaks to the soul. ‘Ghachar Ghochar’ by Vivek Shanbhag was originally written in Kannada and has been translated to English by Srinath Perur. There were two characteristics that drew me to this book. First, the title – Ghachar Ghochar as it reminded me of “gibberish” that my brother and I came up with in childhood but it meant something only to us. Second, I have always had a special affinity to Karnataka, particularly to Bangalore and Mangalore owing to deep ancestral and cultural roots.

The beauty about this book is that even though it is a novella, it manages to effectively communicate a powerful message about the impact of ‘new money’ on a family based in Bangalore. The story is narrated in the voice of the son of the family who is never named. The characters in the narrative include his parents, sister Malati, wife Anita and uncle Chikappa (father’s younger brother). 

The family is shown as starting out on a modest family income, the narrator’s father being the main breadwinner. The importance of budget is reflected in scenes where the family go out for tiffin only on Sundays or when the mother doesn’t have any money to invest in jewellery or expensive saris. This is captured well in the sentence “……we simply did not desire what we couldn’t afford. When you have no choice, you have no discontent either.”

As the story progresses, the narrator’s Chikappa starts a successful spice trade business called ‘Sona Masala’ and the family is suddenly faced with money. The events that follow constitute the main body of the story – “Its 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. Money had swept us up and flung us in the midst of a whirlwind”.

The writing is succinct and powerful. Shanbhag has done well in effectively addressing the modern day demon of money through everyday characters living ordinary lives. Perur’s translation appears to have done full justice to the soul of the story and for this, he too deserves much praise.

Ghachar Ghochar – so what does it actually mean? Oh not so easily…for the answer you must read the book! The book is set to release in the UK on 27th April 2017. 

My sincere gratitude to Vivek Shanbhag and Faber & Faber for this opportunity to review such outstanding literature. It’s been an honour.


  1. Great review! I recently wrote an article for Women's Web. Mentioned Ghachar Ghochar in it as a book by an Indian male writer with memorable female characters. :)


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