Second-novelist Jha (The Blue Bedspread, 2000) returns with a mysterious, sometimes murky tale set in contemporary India.
Amir lives in a two-room apartment and works in the post office, writing letters for the illiterate. One day, he sees a man offering a ride on the back of a crow for those who are “not afraid of heights.” Also watching are a mother and her daughter, who is yearning for a doll in a red dress. An accident—two colliding trains—leaves Amir bleeding and disoriented on the doorstep of Rami, who lives in Paradise Park, a luxury building in the midst of a slum. Rami takes Amir to her apartment, where he discovers the magical quality of the windows, which can be angled so that they reflect the sky and, on special occasions, the ocean many miles away. On another day, Rami comes home with a crow whose beak has been cut off. She nurses it back to health. When Amir is healed, she suggests he take her home to his humble apartment. Before long, she hears the sound of a child crying and disappears for good. In the second section, Mala, a journalist, investigates the murder of an 11-year-old girl in a red dress, whose body was discovered in a canal, the post-mortem indicating she was gagged and raped. In the third section, a young girl in a red dress reports the events of a week in her neighborhood when people, young and old, killed themselves one by one. A male “friend,” who hides under her bed, shows her how her parents are being watched, making her fear for their safety.
The disembodied child’s voice, the wounded crow, the mirror-image lovers, Amir and Rami, the girl in the red dress, the train accident, the investigating intelligence: all are refracted through various lenses in a novel structured in a kaleidoscopic fashion, offering more poetic satisfaction than clarity.