to the late Pappachi (meaning grandfather, his full name is Benaan John Ipe), who hit Mammachi regularly with a brass-vase, leaving ‘crescent shaped’ scars on her skull. She has one daughter, Ammu (the black sheep of the family), and a son, Chacko (a Rhodes-scholar, educated in Oxford). Mammachi starts a small business in making pickles and jams in her kitchen, a business her son Chacko soon takes charge of and develops into a factory when he moves back home after his divorce. Mammachi thinks highly of her family as well as of herself and has an almost obsessive habit of ranking every person she ever meets, which normally ends up with them being situated somewhere down below her in the hierarchy of her mind. Towards her husband, she displays the mentioned idealized ‘suffering wife’ attitude, submits herself to him, accepts her fate and projects her repressed anger at other people, for example at Ammu, her rebellious daughter.
The second character, Baby Kochamma (Navomi Ipe), is Mammachi’s short but voluminous sister-in-law and Ammu’s aunt, much feared and loathed by Ammu’s children. She embodies a mixture of willfulness and adaption towards her family’s customs and traditions, but most of all she is a significantly shrewd lady and a master in the skill of manipulation and conspiracy. Sadly in love for her whole life with an unattainable Irish monk, she ends up an old maid living in her father’s house, where she, among other things, is in charge of the formal education of Ammu’s twins.
Ammu is the unruly daughter of the house, who manages to escape her abusive father and suppressed, wretched mother by hurriedly accepting a marriage proposal from a Bengali Hindu man during a visit to a distant relative in Calcutta. Her future husband works as a tea estate assistant manager up in Assam and