Design: Lines on Designs

In her novel, `The God of Small Things' (Flamingo, pounds 6.99), Arundhati Roy describes how Estha walks into her twin brother Rahel's room in the family house in Ayemenem in India.

"THE ROOM had kept his secrets. It gave nothing away. Not in the disarray of rumpled sheets, or the untidiness of a kick-off shoe, or a wet towel hung over the back of a chair. Or a half-read book. It was like a room in a hospital after the nurse had just been. The floors were clean, the walls white. The cupboard closed. Shoes arranged. The dustbin empty.

The obsessive cleanliness of the room was the only positive sign of volition from Estha. The only faint suggestion that he had, perhaps, some Design for Life. Just the whisper of an unwillingness to subsist on scraps offered by others. On the wall by the window, an iron stood by an ironing board. A pile of folded, crumpled clothes waited to be ironed.

Silence hung in the air like a secret loss.

The terrible ghosts of impossible-to-forget toys clustered on the blades of the ceiling fan. A catapult. A Qantas koala (from Miss Mitten) with loosened button eyes. An inflatable goose (that had been burst with a policeman's cigarette)."