Stories from My Life

February 19, 2009

Jahnavi Barua's Next Door

Last weekend was most unusual. The boyfriend was travelling. My BFF was down with an eye infection. The gang was away on a camping trip. And I suddenly realized I had two whole days staring back at me and not a single thing to do. Bored out of my wits, I picked up a book my sister had left behind after her visit, and curled up on my fave sofa.

Next Door

It’s called Next Door, by debutante author Jahnavi Barua. And each of its 11 stories came to life and spoke to me over the weekend.

Jiu, the little girl from ‘The Magic Spell’, asked me questions as I cooked myself a packet of noodles. I had one for her. Why did you eat those unidentified seeds? I asked her. She said nothing, looking at me with her serious eyes.

Dhiren Majumdar from ‘The Patriot’ cheered me up when I was feeling particularly low. “Hey, I sheltered an insurgent and my folks still love me. Do you think you’re in this alone?” he pulled my leg gently.

Babli from ‘Tiger’ sat beside me as I tuned in to my fave telly talk-show. She held my hand as the subject of adolescent sexuality came up. No words were necessary.

In ‘A Fire in Winter’, I found my brother — now working in a far away land — and felt close to him through Jeet. We, too, had been brought up by a girl who left her own parents to look after us and, in the process, became something more than family.

‘Honeybees’, ‘River of Life’, ‘Holiday Homework’ — each of them brought back someone I’d known, someone I’d forgotten, in subtle strokes and plausible plots.

Something made me put down the book and call, first, my BFF and then my bro, to tell them I love them. Next Door is good. But real life, first hand, is better.

Next Door. By Jahnavi Barua. Published by Penguin. Price: 250. At bookstores nationwide.

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