Upamanyu Chatterjee: The Mammaries of the Welfare State


The latest addition to my website is Upamanyu Chatterjee‘s The Mammaries of the Welfare State. This is a follow-up to Chatterjee’s English, August and continues the story of Agastya Sen, an Indian civil servant. I say that it continues his story, which it does, but the book is essentially a long, vicious, occasionally witty satire on Indian government, with Chatterjee outlining the corruption, incompetence, laziness, at times viciousness and malice of those who govern India. He does not hold back; indeed, he goes overboard all too frequently, with long, tedious facetious memos, pointless regulations, silly acronyms, boards and committees which seem to serve no purpose but to provide employment for some civil servants, a whole range of venal politicians and civil servants and a government which does anything but serve the people it is meant to serve. Everyone is on the make, eager to feather his or her own nest or protect his/her interests (to be fair most of the miscreants are male) and eager for their own advancement. I felt that Chatterjee could have taken a fine scalpel to dissect the problem but, instead, takes a massive sledgehammer, scattering all in its wake but leaving us overwhelmed and, to be honest, too often bored.

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  1. Amit Agarwal

    Coming from an Upamanyu Chatterjee fan, this review would probably seem biased. So don’t read further if ‘biased’ is not a word in your dictionary. Agastya Sen, the civil servant, ladies and gentlemen, is back with a fang. Painted with euphemisms, disgust,and a remarkable insight into Indian bureaucracy, the book surely charts its meaningful path through the jungle of rich English. Real life examples easily flash across your skull when you read about the ruling Aflatoons or the gun tottering uneducated son of the chief minister, Makhmal Bagai. Parts of the story leave your hands gripping the book tight and your body squirming on the floor. The sex scene, the idiosyncrasies of the bribe-guzzling, tai-chi practicing, file pushing Indian bureaucracy is satisfactorily described. It does get heavy on your cerebrum sometimes and I could handle that in discrete time periods, …..anyhoo, nothing much to say- I found the book to be a classic.

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