In the Company of Specters: Forging Communal Unities in The Ministry of Utmost Happiness

  • Sarah Mir


This paper explores spectral characters marginalised on the basis of their social, religious, gender and ethnic labels in modern-day India, as depicted in Arundhati Roy’s The Ministry of Utmost Happiness. Using Jacques Derrida’s concept of hauntology, taken in terms of the fear of the original event repeating itself somewhere in the future as a specter, which in turn functions as a reminder of the responsibility that humanity has to resist different forms of injustices that surround us, I have analysed how Roy’s spectral characters, that is, characters who are out of place and linger across rigidly defined social categories, learn to forge unities amidst the communal divides of contemporary India under the wave of Hindutva. In the growing social fanaticism targeting different communities such as Dalits, Hijras and Muslims, spectral characters such as Musa, Saddam, Anjum and Tilo provide an alternative social consciousness against the backdrop of their chaotic socio-political environment which is a timely requirement in present-day India. Moreover, I have also inferred that the spectral landscapes in the novel, like the Khwabgah, Kashmir and the mall, remind the readers that the history of violence and injustice cannot be wiped away by reconstructing or destroying a physical space; they continue to haunt their surroundings both in the present and the future.

Keywords: Hauntology, specters, landscape, alternative consciousness, India