In those early amorphous years when memory had only just begun, when life was full of Beginnings and no Ends, and Everything was Forever, Esthappen and Rahel thought of themselves together as Me, and separately, individually, as We or Us. As though they were a rare breed of Siamese twins, physically separate, but with joint identities. (4-5)
When they lowered Sophie Mol's coffin into the ground in the little cemetery behind the church, Rahel knew that she still wasn't dead. She heard (on Sophie Mol's behalf) the softsounds of the red mud and the hardsounds of the orange laterite that spoiled the shining coffin polish. She heard the dullthudding through the polished coffin wood, through the satin coffin lining. The sad priests' voices muffled by mud and wood.
We entrust into thy hands, most merciful Father,
The soul of this our child departed.
And we commit her body to the ground,
Earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust.
Inside the earth Sophie Mol screamed, and shredded satin with her teeth. But you can't hear screams through earth and stone.
Sophie Mol died because she couldn't breathe.
Her funeral killed her. Dus to dus to dus to dus to dus.On her tombstone it said A SUNBEAM LENT TO US TOO BRIEFLY" (8-9).
"We're Prisoners of War," Chacko said. "Our dreams have been doctored. We belong nowhere. We sail unachored on troubled seas. We may never be allowed ashore. Our sorrows will never be sad enough. Our joys never happy enough. Our dreams never big enough. Our lives never important enough. To matter." (52)
It was an awe-inspiring and humbling thought, Chacko said (Humbling was a nice word, Rahel thought. Humbling along without a care in the world), that the whole of contemporary history, the World Wars, the War of Dreams, the Man on the Moon, science, literature, philosophy, the pursuit of knowledge--was no more than a blink of the Earth Woman's eye.
"And we, my dears, everything we are and ever will be are just a twinkle in her eye," Chacko said grandly, lying on his bed, staring at the ceiling...
Later, in the light of all that happened, twinkle seemed completely the wrong word to describe an expression in the Earth Woman's eye. Twinkle was a word with crinkled, happy edges. (53)
To this, Ammu said "Ha! Ha! Ha!" like people in the comics. She said:
(a) Going to Oxford didn't necessarily make a person clever.
(b) Cleverness didn't necessarily make a good prime minister.
(c) If a person couldn't even run a pickle factory profitably, how was that person going to run a whole country?
And, most important of all:
(d) All Indian mothers are obsessed with their sons and are therefore poor judges of their abilities.
(a) You don't go to Oxford. You read at Oxford.
(b) After reading at Oxford you come down. (54-55)
"Ammu," Chacko said, his voice steady and deliberately casual, 'is it at all possible for you to prevent your washed-up cynicism from completely coloring everything?' New paragraph: Silence filled the car like a saturated sponge. 'Washed-up' cut like a knife through a soft thing. The sun shone with a shuddering sigh. This was the trouble with families. Like invidious doctors, they knew just where it hurt" (68).
It was as though Ammu believed that if she refused to acknowledge the passage of time, if she willed it to stand still in the lives of her twins, it would. As though sheer willpower was enough to suspend her children's childhoods until she could afford to have them living with her. Then they could take up from where they left off. Start again from seven.(152)
To be fair to Comrade Pillai, he did not plan the course of events that followed. He merely slipped his ready fingers into History's waiting glove.
It was not entirely his fault that he lived in a society where a man's death could be more profitable than his life had even been. (265-67)
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 the 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.
Men's Needs. (292)
Biology designed the dance. Terror timed it. Dictated the rhythm with which their bodies answered each other. As though they knew already that for each tremor of pleasure they would pay with an equal measure of pain. As though they knew that how far they went would be measured against how far they would be taken. So they held back. Tormented each other. Gave of each other slowly. But that only made it worse. It only raised the stakes. It only cost them more. Because it smoothed the wrinkles, the fumble and rush of unfamiliar love and roused them to fever pitch. (317)
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