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Baby Kochamma

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Navomi Ipe Kochamma, better known by her nickname Baby Kochamma, is an antagonist within Arundhati Roy's novel, The God of Small Things. She is the vindictive great aunt of the child protagonists Esthappen (Estha) and Rahel.


Baby Kochamma appears in the present and the past events of the novel, as The God of Small Things alternates between 1993 and 1969 Ayemenem. The plot explores her past when she was young and fell in love with an Irish monk named Father Mulligan. She converted to Roman Catholicism and attended a convent in her attempt to get closer to him but was met with disappointment when their interaction never went beyond Bible talk and mild flirting. She eventually left the convent and studied in the United States. When she returned to Ayemenem, she was obese and tended to the plants of the family home.

She develops an intense dislike for Ammu for being a divorced mother which extends to her disliking her children Estha and Rahel. On one trip to Abhilash Talkies for the family's habitual viewing of The Sound of Music, their car is halted by a group of communist marchers. Rahel spots Velutha, an Untouchable laborer and good friend to Estha and Rahel (who is also Ammu's lover), among the crowd. Two marchers humiliate Baby by forcing her to wave a miniature communist flag and utter supportive words while the family is trapped, an action that causes her to become hateful of Velutha by association.

Estha and Rahel's cousin Sophie Mol arrives in Ayemenem for a visit and is lavished by Baby Kochamma who tries to create a good image for herself while also antagonizing Estha and Rahel. One night, Estha and Rahel go down the river to the house where Velutha dwells while accompanied by Sophie Mol who is knocked off the boat by a strong current and drowned. Baby Kochamma goes to the police, accusing Velutha of having abducted the children, killed Sophie Mol, threatened the family, and raped Ammu. This leads the policemen to tracking down and brutally beating Velutha which was witnessed by Estha and Rahel. When questioned, Estha and Rahel reveal that Sophie had drowned and that Velutha was victimized for no reason. This causes apprehension for the police due to their fear of how the local communist group might react to Velutha's beating.

Baby Kochamma is then confronted for giving a false accusation due to the lack of evidence which strikes fear in her. To save herself from being charged and punished, Baby Kochamma manipulates Estha and Rahel into "confessing" that Velutha was responsible for Sophie's death and their abduction with the threat that if they don't, their Ammu will go to jail and suffer because of them. (It is noted that she went into elaborate details about the brutality and beatings that Ammu would face while imprisoned.) So Estha and Rahel, wanting to protect their mother from being incarcerated and suffering, go through with her manipulation as Estha feeds the police Baby Kochamma's lie. Velutha dies in police custody from his wounds. When Ammu later comes forth to confess her relationship with Velutha, Baby Kochamma once again protects herself by convincing Sophie Mol's father Chacko that it was her and her children who were responsible for his daughter's death. This results in Chacko kicking Ammu and her children out of the family house. Her final manipulation ultimately causes the separation of Estha and Rahel when Estha is returned to his father.

In the present day, Baby Kochamma resides as a recluse in the old family house which has long since become ugly and overgrown with her ruined plants. As Estha and Rahel reunite for the first time in years, Baby Kochamma still insults both of them (once noting her delight in how Estha does not initially speak to or acknowledge Rahel) while continuing to be an addict to her television set. However, it is shown that she has ultimately become hollow and is living a hollow life.


Baby Kochamma is a spiteful, destructive, and materialistic character. Rahel once describes Baby as "living her life backwards" due to her earlier days when she rejected materialism and later days when she embraced it. Her vindictive nature drives the plot when her contempt for multiple characters drives her to manipulate others (Chacko, Estha and Rahel, the police) in actions that lead to Velutha's death and Ammu's despair (and later death alone in a cheap hotel room). She is also quick to insult Ammu and her children, mostly for the reason of being a divorced mother with fatherless children.

But Baby Kochamma is also a tragic character in some respects. Her worldview is significantly dulled with the disappointment over Father Mulligan not becoming her lover. (He converted to Hinduism and died years later.) Baby Kochamma keeps a journal in which she writes "I love you" repeatedly as a means of keeping Father Mulligan in spirit. She also demonstrates an insecurity through this method of preserving her unrequited love in an attempt to not live as empty a life as she can.

She is technically a Karma Houdini in the respect that she was never punished for her deceptions and manipulations in 1969. However, one could argue that she has received a punishment in the form of the hollow life she leads by the present time of the novel, locked up in the family house and surrounded by her dead plants and her desperate attempts to retain the memory of Father Mulligan.

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