Jaishree “Janu” Misra writes a simple, spellbinding tale of love and loss, of pain and deserved happiness which simply rings aloud through and through with bitter experience. Once in a while, I read a book that stays with me for a long, long time. Something inside me takes notice, and I think on the sentences, the words and the characters in the book when I’m doing very different things. Usually, it’s because I identify with some of the characters in the book, and usually, if the protagonist is male, I tend to step into their shoes. But Janu at a lively, imaginative and wonderful 18 years of age, and Arjun a boyish teenager (who loves cricket) that she falls in love with – both of em, can’t be more unlike me. I regret to inform you that it’s her Malayalee husband Suresh I found a kindred spirit in, the Suresh that Janu is forced to marry after abandoning her first love. And Suresh is what I fear I will become 😀
The story, for an Indian author, is refreshingly simple. By that I mean, there aren’t any connivings with the language that both Roy and Rushdie seem to tinker with. Nor is there (despite the name) any deep-rooted mysticism; Janu is human and approachable and her problems are real and vivid and so hard to solve. I can’t draw any parallels with more complicated tales that other Indian authors tend to write nowadays either, but neither is it a return to the ‘before Rushdie’ age with it’s desi tinge; it’s what I feel Indian writing should be – true to the heart, direct, and definitely Indian. Rushdie has said something though that I remember: you have to be an insider and an outsider to see the whole picture. Janu definitely fits the bill, and it’s her unique blend of Delhi-traits and upbringing and her decidedly Malayalee roots that give this story life. I won’t paraphrase the story here because I’m cheating you of a good read, and neither will I give out the many gems of observations that Janu makes about life in Kerala. But if you do get the time, pick up this book; if you’re a Malayalee, don’t miss this.