Book review

Anuradha Roy’s ‘Sleeping on Jupiter’ is that rare being: a literary page-turner

Roy’s third novel uses the lost-and-found rhythm, the same dry-throat-biting-nails routine that marks midnight thrillers on TV.

Lost-and-found could be many things – the name of a child’s game, a stock register in a police station listing things missing and then located, a poetic stand-in for an obsessive superstition, an instinct that turns people into spyware. In Anuradha Roy’s third novel, Sleeping on Jupiter, lost-and-found could be the name of both its ethic and aesthetic.

A young girl arrives in a seaside town in India to look for a few people from her past. Jharmuli is also a pilgrimage site, and so its temples and sea beaches are filled with tourists and their guides, pilgrims and their protocols, photographers and their mood swings. It is also the place where the young girl, Nomi, who now lives in Norway, was sexually exploited along with many others in an ashram run by a godman. Playing hopscotch with narrative energy and moving with pointed fingers like one does in a whodunit, Sleeping on Jupiter is that nearly utopian beast – a literary page-turner.

The mysteries

There is something oddly pleasing and anxiety-inducing about the lost-and-found rhythm, the same dry-throat-biting-nails routine that marks midnight thriller watching on television. Lost-and-found is the closest echo of birth and death, and perhaps because of this connection with the primordial, its subterranean presence in a narrative makes us hold our spines erect as we move through the novel, propelled by the greed for more knowledge: Who is Nomi? Why is she in Jarmuli? Does she find the poetic justice that she is looking for here? Or even Piku, her childhood companion in the ashram? What connection does the tea seller Johnny Tepo have to her past life? And if you are also looking to learn from the author’s superb control of structure, there are things you want to put your nose into – why, oh, why did she have to bring in three aged women into this narrative?

If you let it live inside your gut for too long, revenge becomes the lost-and-I-must-find rocking horse in your life. This is how Nomi’s life story would play out in the hands of an ordinary writer, but Anuradha Roy, whose first novel gave us a rough idea of the territory this talent could cover, takes a newspaper headline and turns it into theatre, of the best kind there is.

Why do I call it a newspaper headline? Here is Roy in her “Acknowledgments”: “There are countless horrific cases of child abuse and sexual violence in India. I have drawn on the legal and investigative history of many such incidents ...”  Violence being the LSD of our times, “human interest” stories on the subject play out on evening television every day – on high-pitched news capsules, on programmes like Crime Patrol where justice by Indian law arrives as the moral at the end of every episode. But Roy will have none of this. Her Nomi must return to Jharmuli because she is a detective of her own past.

Losing… and finding

The novel begins with the death of Nomi’s biological family and her consequent transportation to the Guru’s ashram. That is the first “lost” trope, so to say. And then it continues, Roy scattering losses in the story of her “first” life like Hansel and Gretel – this is to be the reward, both Nomi’s and the reader’s, “finding” these “losts”. Her biological mother, her brother, her childhood companion Piku, even her childhood – all marked with the “LOST” rubberstamp. And that is not all. When Nomi arrives in India from Norway, to collect what has been lost as it were, she gets lost herself – the train abandons her on a platform after she gets down to buy some food for a poor man.

“Loser” is now a psycho-capitalist term, used for people who have not been able to bait worldly success. But it could also be used for those who lose people and things. In that particular sense, every single character in Roy’s novel has lost something: Nomi, her parents and childhood; Suraj, the photographer accompanying her on this filming assignment to Jharmuli, has only recently lost his wife to his best friend; Badal, the guide, loses his scooter, a lover, and almost his sanity; Johnny Tepo, the chaiwala on the beach, singing songs from a previous life, has happily lost his life as Jugnu in the ashram; of the three women travelling from Calcutta on a holiday away from their family, one lost her husband to a secretary once, another a Konkani lover, and the third, a victim of dementia, her memory.

“Don’t you feel like disappearing from your life sometimes?” Nomi asks Suraj, the photographer and her travelling companion on this trip, and because everything – or at least something – must return in the scheme of things, these words come back to him towards the end of the novel. Everyone is losing something or the other: Gouri, the aged woman who has already lost some of her memory to dementia, loses her earrings only to find it later, this before she herself gets lost and found and lost and found again and again; Badal, the guide, loses his scooter only to find it later; a character builds a boat for his dead father every year, writes a note, and pushes it into the sea; one aged woman holds her friend’s hand in the crowd and tells her, “Don’t rush off into the crowd, I’ll lose you”; Johnny Tepo, now a tea seller on the beach, says, “I never sang before, not until I left everything and came here”; “I was a parcel being sent from one country to another,” young Nomi says about her move from Jharmuli to Norway, the metaphor of the parcel holding in it the breath of the lost-and-found morality; rituals are lost and replaced, but not the erotica of the Hindu temples which now seem lost forever; “Get lost,” says a young boy to his hopeful lover while his employer tells a customer “I have ... nothing to lose”.

One of the saddest losses is when Gouri, the woman suffering from dementia, loses a few lines from a poem. Anuradha Roy tells us later that those lines are from Jibanananda Das’s poem, Bonolata Sen. In the same list of acknowledgements, she mentions the Ramayana and the Mahabharata.

There is something that binds these texts with Roy’s novel: Das’s famous poem is about a lover’s search for the lost Bonolata Sen; Rama loses his wife only to find her later; and everyone in the Mahabharata loses something, even if what the Kauravas lose is not what the Pandavas find. And that is why Anuradha Roy places her novel by the sea, that ultimate metaphor for lost and found: “It’s the sea. The sound of it. It brought back so many old things I had forgotten,” says one character; and this is Nomi: “At every sea, she would sit down like this and wait for it to tell her something, she didn’t know what, but she’d know it when it came”.

If you’ve ever lost something, you must read this novel.

If you’ve ever found something you lost, you must read this novel too.

We welcome your comments at letters@scroll.in.
Sponsored Content BY 

Top picks, best deals and all that you need to know for the Amazon Great Indian Festival

We’ve done the hard work so you can get right to what you want amongst the 40,000+ offers across 4 days.

The Great Indian Festival (21st-24th September) by Amazon is back and it’s more tempting than ever. This edition will cater to everyone, with offers on a range of products from electronics, home appliances, apparel for men and women, personal care, toys, pet products, gourmet foods, gardening accessories and more. With such overwhelming choice of products and a dozen types of offers, it’s not the easiest to find the best deals in time to buy before your find gets sold out. You need a strategy to make sure you avail the best deals. Here’s your guide on how to make the most out of the Great Indian Festival:

Make use of the Amazon trio – Amazon Prime, Amazon Pay and Amazon app

Though the festival officially starts on 21st, Amazon Prime members will have early access starting at 12 noon on 20th September itself, enabling them to grab the best deals first. Sign up for an Amazon Prime account to not miss out on exclusive deals and products. Throughout the festival, Prime members will 30-minute early access to top deals before non-Prime members. At Rs 499/- a year, the Prime membership also brings unlimited Amazon Prime video streaming and quick delivery benefits.

Load your Amazon pay wallet; there’s assured 10% cashback (up to Rs 500). Amazon will also offer incremental cashbacks over and above bank cashbacks on select brands as a part of its Amazon Pay Offers. Shopping from the app would bring to you a whole world of benefits not available to non-app shoppers. App-only deals include flat Rs 1,250 off on hotels on shopping for more than Rs 500, and flat Rs 1,000 off on flights on a roundtrip booking of Rs 5,000 booking from Yatra. Ten lucky shoppers can also win one year of free travel worth Rs 1.5 lakhs.

Plan your shopping

The Great Indian Sale has a wide range of products, offers, flash sales and lightning deals. To make sure you don’t miss out on the best deals, or lose your mind, plan first. Make a list of things you really need or have been putting off buying. If you plan to buy electronics or appliances, do your research on the specs and shortlist the models or features you prefer. Even better, add them to your wishlist so you’re better able to track your preferred products.

Track the deals

There will be lightning deals and golden hour deals throughout the festival period. Keep track to avail the best of them. Golden-hour deals will be active on the Amazon app from 9.00pm-12.00am, while Prime users will have access to exclusive lightning deals. For example, Prime-only flash sales for Redmi 4 will start at 2.00pm and Redmi 4A at 6.00pm on 20th, while Nokia 6 will be available at Rs 1,000 off. There will be BOGO Offers (Buy One Get One free) and Bundle Offers (helping customers convert their TVs to Smart TVs at a fraction of the cost by using Fire TV Stick). Expect exclusive product launches from brands like Xiaomi (Mi Band 2 HRX 32 GB), HP (HP Sprocket Printer) and other launches from Samsung and Apple. The Half-Price Electronics Store (minimum 50% off) and stores offering minimum Rs 15,000 off will allow deal seekers to discover the top discounts.

Big discounts and top picks

The Great Indian Festival is especially a bonanza for those looking to buy electronics and home appliances. Consumers can enjoy a minimum of 25% off on washing machines, 20% off on refrigerators and 20% off on microwaves, besides deals on other appliances. Expect up to 40% off on TVs, along with No-Cost EMI and up to Rs 20,000 off on exchange.

Home Appliances

Our top picks for washing machines are Haier 5.8 Kg Fully Automatic Top Loading at 32% off, and Bosch Fully Automatic Front Loading 6 Kg and 7 Kg, both available at 27% discount. Morphy Richards 20 L Microwave Oven will be available at a discount of 38%.

Our favorite pick on refrigerators is the large-sized Samsung 545 L at 26% off so you can save Rs 22,710.

There are big savings to be made on UV water purifiers as well (up to 35% off), while several 5-star ACs from big brands will be available at greater than 30% discount. Our top pick is the Carrier 1.5 Ton 5-star split AC at 32% off.

Personal Electronics

There’s good news for Apple fans. The Apple MacBook Air 13.3-inch Laptop 2017 will be available at Rs 55,990, while the iPad will be available at 20% off. Laptops from Lenovo, Dell and HP will be available in the discount range of 20% to 26%. Top deals are Lenovo Tab3 and Yoga Tab at 41% to 38% off. Apple fans wishing to upgrade to the latest in wearable technology can enjoy Rs 8,000 off on the Apple Watch series 2 smartwatch.

If you’re looking for mobile phones, our top deal pick is the LG V20 at Rs 24,999, more than Rs 5000 off from its pre-sale price.

Power banks always come in handy. Check out the Lenovo 13000 mAh power bank at 30% off.

Home printers are a good investment for frequent flyers and those with kids at home. The discounted prices of home printers at the festival means you will never worry about boarding passes and ID documents again. The HP Deskjet basic printer will be available for Rs 1,579 at 40% off and multi-function (printer/ scanner/ Wi-Fi enabled) printers from HP Deskjet and Canon will also available at 33% off.

The sale is a great time to buy Amazon’s native products. Kindle E-readers and Fire TV Stick will be on sale with offers worth Rs 5,000 and Rs 1,000 respectively.

The Amazon Fire Stick
The Amazon Fire Stick

For those of you who have a bottomless collection of movies, music and photos, there is up to 60% off on hard drives and other storage devices. Our top picks are Rs 15,000 and Rs 12,000 off on Seagate Slim 5TB and 4TB hard drives respectively, available from 8.00am to 4.00pm on 21st September.

The sale will see great discounts of up to 60% off on headphones and speakers from the top brands. The 40% off on Bose QC 25 Headphones is our favourite. Top deals are on Logitech speakers with Logitech Z506 Surround Sound 5.1 multimedia Speakers at 60% off and Logitech X300 Bluetooth Speaker at 58% off!

Other noteworthy deals

Cameras (up to 55% off) and camera accessories such as tripods, flash lights etc. are available at a good discount. Home surveillance cameras too will be cheaper. These include bullet cameras, dome cameras, simulated cameras, spy cameras and trail and game cameras.

For home medical supplies and equipment, keep an eye on the grooming and personal care section. Weighing scales, blood pressure monitors, glucometers, body fat monitors etc. will be available at a cheaper price.

The sale is also a good time to invest in home and kitchen supplies. Mixer-grinders and juicers could see lightning deals. Don’t ignore essentials like floor mops with wheels, rotating mop replacements, utensils, crockery etc. Tupperware sets, for example, will be more affordable. There are attractive discounts on bags, especially laptop bags, backpacks, diaper bags and luggage carriers.

Interesting finds

While Amazon is extremely convenient for need-based shopping and daily essentials, it is also full of hidden treasures. During the festival, you can find deals on telescopes, polaroid cameras, smoothie makers, gym equipment, gaming consoles and more. So you’ll be able to allow yourself some indulgences!

Small shopping

If you have children, the festival is good time to stock up on gifts for Diwali, Christmas, return gifts etc. On offer are gaming gadgets such as Xbox, dough sets, Touching Tom Cat, Barbies, classic board games such as Life and more. There are also some products that you don’t really need, but kind of do too, such as smartphone and tablet holders, magnetic car mounts for smartphones and mobile charging station wall stands. If you’re looking for enhanced functionality in daily life, do take a look at the Amazon Basics page. On it you’ll find USB cables, kitchen shears, HDMI cables, notebooks, travel cases and other useful things you don’t realise you need.

Check-out process and payment options

Amazon is also offering an entire ecosystem to make shopping more convenient and hassle-free. For the festival duration, Amazon is offering No-Cost EMIs (zero interest EMIs) on consumer durables, appliances and smartphones, plus exchange schemes and easy installation services in 65 cities. HDFC card holders can avail additional 10% cashback on HDFC credit and debit cards. Customers will also get to “Buy Now and Pay in 2018” with HDFC Credit Cards, as the bank offers a 3 Month EMI Holiday during the days of the sale. Use Amazon Pay balance for fast and easy checkouts, quicker refunds and a secured shopping experience.

Sales are fun and with The Great Indian Festival offering big deals on big brands, it definitely calls for at least window shopping. There’s so much more than the above categories, like minimum 50% off on American Tourister luggage! To start the treasure hunt, click here.

This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Amazon.in and not by the Scroll editorial team.