The God of Small Things | Study Guide

Arundhati Roy

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The God of Small Things | Chapter 20 : The Madras Mail | Summary



As the train carrying Estha away from Ammu and Rahel prepares to leave the station, a lady seated near him tries to get him to join her family in enjoying some sweets. Estha declines. The lady listens as Ammu talks to Estha through the window, giving him instructions about his ticket and the lunch she has packed for him, and promising him she will come and get him soon. Prophetically, Estha says that will be never.

The last conversation Ammu and her children have together is about the school she will start and they will attend and the little house they will all live in. As the train pulls away, Estha feels like vomiting and Rahel screams and screams.

The next section of the chapter then shifts to the present, where Rahel is still in Estha's room, on his bed. She pulls him down to lay with her, and they break the Love Laws by having sex together. And the moment so many years before when Ammu felt the longing for Velutha that could not be denied is described. She will choose him over the family that she has come to despise, although she never would have made that choice had she known she would lose her children.


It is striking how desperately Ammu is trying to hold onto her mother role as she watches her young son being ripped away from her. She tries to maintain a sense of normalcy against the backdrop of a world gone terribly wrong. The fact that there is family riding in the car with Estha, talking to each other in normal ways, makes the scene even more poignant.

When Estha says he is "Feeling vomity," the reader is taken back to the trauma he experienced not so long ago with the Orangedrink Lemondrink Man. Layer on top of that all that he has witnessed and now his removal from the family, and it does not seem surprising at all that he will retreat from the world and stop talking.

The love scene between Rahel and Estha is her final attempt to restore their lost intimacy. They share their "hideous grief" in a loving way, but readers do not learn if it will make any difference.

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