Love may make the world go round but this is not the most important element to establish a relationship in some cultures of the world. While many would feel that if you love someone, nothing else should stop you from being together, this is not how Ammu and Velutha were treated in Arundhati Roy's "The God of Small things." When they fell in love, there was a big obstacle in their path to being one and that obstacle was caste difference. They knew so well that it would be impossible to be together legally that they hid their love from the world and would meet in the dark to express their love for each other. Their story shows that caste is greater than love in some parts of the world.
Their emotionally charged love story takes place in the backdrop of caste problems that plagued Kerala, an Indian state, in 1960s. As love blossoms between a young woman of higher caste and an untouchable, they fail to see the barriers to their union and do the very unthinkable. They engage in sexual adventures without letting anyone know and in the end bring death upon themselves in most tragic circumstances. The love always sounds very real even though anyone in India would probably confess that caste is a serious issue and defines the social fabric of the country.
From our close reading of the novel, we claim that in some cultures, caste is far more important and powerful than love. In the case of Ammu and Velutha, it certainly was but only in their eyes. It was not even conceivable in the eyes of others. Paravans were one of those untouchables that Ammu's family had known for a long time but never considered them an equal in any sense of the word. For them Paravans were to be treated like all other untouchables in the land:
"In Mammachi's time, Paravans, like other untouchables were not allowed to walk on public roads, not allowed to cover their upper bodies, not allowed to carry umbrellas. They had to put their hands over their mouths when they spoke, to divert their polluted breath away from those whom they addressed." (p. 71)
What complicated things for Ammu was the fact that on one hand she was in love with an untouchable and on the other, she was a divorced woman. The fact that she was treated like a servant in her own house is what made her look for an escape and in her sheer desperation, she didn't care about the caste difference and fell for Velutha. Divorce in itself was a huge stigma in those times and to get it at a very such age was even more painful for the victim. Ammu had to live in her mother's house, almost like a subdued servant since she couldn't even enjoy the dignity of having her own place. She was dependent on her parents for shelter. At that age, which according to the narrator was "a viable, die-able age," Ammu still had sexual urges; she still dreamed of being loved and touched and must have fantasized about having a relationship. However being a divorcee, the chances of that ever happening were slim and at 30, she was stuck in the house with two young children to take care of.
So it was only natural that when an opportunity for a beautiful relationship arose, Ammu couldn't resist even though the person in question was an untouchable by the name of Velutha. Velutha himself couldn't resist her beauty even though Paravans knew some people were simply off limits for them. He couldn't help noticing Ammu still:
"In the brief moment, Velutha looked up and saw things he hadn't seen before. Things that had been out of bounds so far, obscured by history's blinkers. Simple things.
For instance, he saw that Rahel's mother was a woman. That she had deep dimples when she smiled and that they stayed on long after her smile left her eyes. He saw that her brown arms were round, firm and perfect Ammu saw that he saw. She looked away. He did too." (p. 168)
But Velutha was a Paravan -- a fact that none of them could forget but tried to overlook. Describing the untouch-ability of Velutha, the author makes use of her lyrical sense of comparison, of evoking images that explain things so accurately:…