Narrated by our protagonist Nomi, Sleeping On Jupiter tells us of her brutal past where she witnesses the murder of her father and loses her brother and mother, and how she’s abducted into an ashram in Jarmuli and as a twelve year old, is adopted by foster parents in Norway. Now Nomi, 25, returns to Jarmuli as an assistant filmmaker to probe a documentary film, or is it that she’s looking into her own past? Running parallel with Nomi’s main narrative are three stories – one of three old women on pilgrimage she encounters in the train, one of a homosexual tour guide Badal, and of her photographer Suraj who has a violent streak.
The book’s wonderfully written and is reminiscent of contemporary India, caught between the deep rooted, mostly blind religious affair and the modernism of the 21st century. The character-detailing is brilliant, and the writing has a certain lyrical flair to it. Each character has a past best left forgotten, but unfortunately the past clings on. The story brings out in raw the obscenity of sexual abuse masked in the veil of religion and spiritualism, and questions whether this shame shall be wiped off the slate anytime soon. The book is a great study on Indian hypocrisy, and every character in the book is both a victim and a practitioner of the same. There’s also a lesson on how through strangers you learn more about yourself.
The mood carried throughout is a bit melancholic, and it makes sense considering the protagonist’s tragic past and all. The tragedy, from where the book actually begins, arrests you into reading the book, but somewhere midway the story loses its intensity. There were many a times where I felt that the author sat down to weave a beautiful sweater, but let the threads loose and flowing near the arms. Still I continued reading, expecting it to get better in the following pages. Get better it does, all thanks to Anuradha Roy’s writing.
Long-listed for the Man Booker Prize 2015, Sleeping on Jupiter may not have the greatest of plots, but it does have one brilliant skill of making words come alive. And that particular skill makes it so very magical.