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Invitation to World Literature

The God of Small Things – Map & Timeline

The shaded area shows the region of Kerala.
© 2010 Map Resources, All rights reserved.

All of the action of the novel takes place in this small region of southern India, Kerala. It is far from the big, glamorous cities in the north and east, a seemingly sleepy backwater where terrible human dramas are played out.

This timeline shows both Roy’s life and the history of religion, war, and politics that influenced the writing of The God of Small Things.


Guided by the nonviolent resistance movement lead by Mahatma Gandhi, India gains independence from British rule. The country is partitioned into West and East Pakistan for Muslims, and India for Hindus.


Gandhi is assassinated by a radical Hindu angered over the partition of India.


The southern Indian state of Kerala elects a member of the Communist Party of India (CPI) as its leader; Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru dissolves this government in 1959.


Arundhati Roy is born and grows up in Ayemenem in Kerala, where her novel will be set.


China and India fight a small border war. The CPI splits into pro- and anti-Russian factions.


Nehru dies.


Nehru’s daughter Indira Gandhi becomes Prime Minister as leader of the National Congress Party.


The Congress Party splits, and Gandhi allies with the more liberal side of the party to form a government.


East and West Pakistan split, with East Pakistan becoming the nation of Bangladesh.


Indira Gandhi calls for a state of emergency so she can remain in power after being convicted of election fraud; she loses office in 1977.


Gandhi is re-elected and faces several insurgent movements within India.


Gandhi sends the Indian Army to attack a Sikh temple; she is assassinated by two of her own Sikh bodyguards in retribution.


Rajiv Gandhi, Indira’s son, is elected Prime Minister.


Rajiv Gandhi is assassinated by a Sri Lankan Tamil Tiger rebel.


Narasimha Rao becomes Prime Minister. Arundhati Roy is at work on The God of Small Things, setting it in 1992.


Rao calms tensions in India between Muslims and Hindus until he loses office.


The God of Small Things is published.


India announces it has nuclear weapons.


War between India and Pakistan over the disputed region of Kashmir seems inevitable, but after many small battles, peace talks avert open warfare.


Manmohan Singh is elected Prime Minister.