'Estha had slanting, sleepy eyes and his new front teeth were still uneven at the ends'

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The Independent Online
The following is an extract from Arundhati Roy's Booker Prize- winning The God Of Small Things (Flamingo, pounds 15.99).

That whole week Baby Kochamma eavesdropped relentlessly on the twins' private conversation, and whenever she caught them speaking in Malayalam, she levied a small fine which was deducted at source. From their pocket money. She made them write lines - "impositions" she called them - I will always speak in English, I will always speak in English. A hundred times each. When they were done, she scored them out with her red pen to make sure that old lines were not recycled for new punishments.

She had made them practise an English car song for the way back. They had to form the words properly, and be particularly careful about their pronunciation. Prer NUN sea ayshun.

Rej-Oice in the Lo-Ord Or-Orlways

And again I say rej-Oice,



And again I say rej-Oice.

Estha's full name was Esthappan Yako. Rahel's was Rahel. For the time being they had no surname because Ammu was considering reverting to her maiden name, though she said that choosing between her husband's name and her father's name didn't give a woman much of a choice.

Estha was wearing his beige and pointy shoes and his Elvis puff. His Special Outing Puff. His favourite Elvis song was "Party".

"Some people like to rock, some people like to roll," he would croon, when nobody was watching, strumming a badminton racquet, curling his lip like Elvis, "But moonin' and a-groonin' gonna satisfy mah soul, less have a pardy ..."

Estha had slanting, sleepy eyes and his new front teeth were still uneven at the ends. Rahel's new teeth were waiting inside her gums, like words in a pen. It puzzled everybody that an 18-minute age difference could cause such a discrepancy in front-tooth timing.