Time in The God of Small Things doesn't unfold in a linear way; we don't start at Point A and watch the story progress until we get to Point B. Instead, we move back and forth between 1969 and 1993, with a few other episodes thrown in for flavor. The story is told through a series of memories and flashbacks. From the moment the novel begins, we know what's going to happen, we just don't know how. We start at the end, and the narrator uses the characters' memories to put the pieces together for us. (Check out "Writing Style" for more on this.)
In The God of Small Things, memories tend to be extremely painful to recall.
In The God of Small Things, memories of better times help the characters make sense of the troubles they're going through.