30 July, 2021

Driver Calls December Beatrice

Woven within an ambience of loss—of innocence, home, honour—Jha clinically details his characters’ passage through an awful choice

Driver Calls December Beatrice

The City and the Sea is based on the Nirbhaya gangrape of Dec­ember 2012. The chapters alternating as city and the sea in the novel—rather ostentatiously produced: thick newsprint, full-page section markers, the works—represent an osmotic process between the body and soul, home and abroad, order and chaos, all caught in the tidal waters, waiting or already here.

The kernel of the novel is a child looking for his missing mother. The child may have been unborn too, an abstraction. Innocence and its loss is a trope in  Jha’s schematic novels. The City and the Sea perhaps errs on the side of too much scheme. And that includes an excessive reliance on italics when the telling relates to the missing mother. The novel is saved from preciousness by some fine writing. The last chapter is poignant as a poem and rounds up the mysteries of the child’s journey to his mother, back to becoming a part of the ebb and flow of the mother’s aquamarine breath and being. As in keeping with Jha’s oeuvre, the general ambience is that...

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