It was one of those afternoon escapades at Starmark the intriguing blue cover of ‘Sleeping on Jupiter’ first caught my attention. On seeing a Bengali name as the author, my interest increased and I browsed through the pages. The next few visits to the bookstore would only be spent reading Anuradha Roy’s heart-wrenching, lyrical masterpiece which has now been long-listed for Man Booker Prize, 2015.
‘Sleeping on Jupiter’ is the story of the Nomi, born in India but adopted and raised by a foster-mother in Oslo. Nomi has returned to India to visit Jarmuli, a small temple-town on the banks of Bay of Bengal, in search of her past. She is seeking closure.
The narrative begins when Nomi was six or seven, in the years after the war when she was separated from her family and was taken to an ashram. Hopping from past to present, Anuradha brilliantly sketches a tale of violence and abuse that young Nomi had undergone in the ashram.
Then there is the trip of Vidya, Gauri and Latika – three friends in their 60s. “Three old biddies from Calcutta”, a hotel manager describes them. The narrative also introduces us to Suraj, who works as a liaison person for a TV channel and has his share of ambitions as well. There’s also Badal, a street-smart temple guide who is essential in the plot.
Anuradha Roy’s vivid sketch of the characters will make them lively for the reader. Whether it is the predatory Guruji or the brutal scenes of child sexual abuse, the words strike directly at your heart. The picturesque description of the quaint town of Jarmuli also strikes a chord.
The precision of writing, striking prose and the earthy, humane narrative make this book stand out. The author’s exquisite eloquence and evocative writing makes a simple story much more precious. ‘Sleeping on Jupiter’ is truly representative of modern India and the associated hypocrisies of our society.
My Rating: 4/5 stars
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