Study Guide

The God of Small Things Chapter 12

By Arundhati Roy

Chapter 12

Kochu Thomban

  • It's 1993 again.
  • Rahel approaches the temple compound. She sees Kochu Thomban, the elephant.
  • We learn that kathakali performances are more frequent these days in Ayemenem. The dancers perform for the tourists and then ask forgiveness of their gods for cashing in on their religion.
  • Rahel sits on the ground and watches.
  • The narrator tells us that the characteristic of a great story is that you can enter in at any point. Even though you know what's going to happen, you want to listen anyway.
  • We learn more about what it means to be a Kathakali Man, the type of performer who lives out these epic stories. Once, he was the most sacred kind of person. Now his own kids make fun of him. After the elevated life he has lived in the past, there is nothing left for him to do but make money performing for tourists.
  • Rahel watches the performance. In it, she sees a scene from the Indian epic the Mahabharata. In the performance, Karna meets Kunti, who, as it turns out, is his long-lost mother. She has only shown herself to him for the wellbeing of her five sons, the Pandavas. She makes him promise not to kill them in war. He says he can only promise that she will always have five sons (meaning that he will kill one of them or he will be killed).
  • As Rahel watches, she realizes that Estha is there. She doesn't see him, but she feels his presence.
  • The performance goes on for a really long time. Estha and Rahel are still watching when the sun rises the next morning.
  • The narrator informs us that it was Comrade Pillai who first introduced the twins to kathakali. He used to take them and his son Lenin to watch the performances all night.
  • On their way out of the temple gates, Estha and Rahel run into Comrade Pillai, who praises Rahel for still being interested in Indian culture.
  • Estha and Rahel say nothing, but walk home together, "He and She. We and Us" (12.57).