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The Lonely Planet of Leela Ghosh

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Leela is a bore. She is unambitious, doesn't stick to a job, and is on the run (from a vague sense of loneliness). She has absolutely no sense of responsibility, and probably isn't remotely concerned about having a career or even 'setting down'. This is a judgemental statement and perhaps Leela would give a damn if she were to read it. 

Anjali Joseph's second novel Another Country tells the story of Leela Ghosh. Ghosh, being the centre of the circle and different radii of human relationships connecting to the circumference. And they all stay there, far away from the centre. You cannot really call her a loner, for she is surrounded with people — different people at different points in her life, very few are permanent characters in this book. Flitting in and out of relationships, jobs and travelling without a solid reason, to Paris and Mumbai seems quite casual.
Leela's thoughts engulf her all the time; she is plagued with worries of insecurity and uncertainty — especially in her love life. Nina is her colleague and friend in Paris. In London, Leela is secure with Amy, a friend for many years, who is dating a charming, married man. Richard is Leela's boy friend, who seems to understand Leela well. But he has a flaw. He doesn't (yet) prefer his dad who visits him now and then to know of Leela. So, she has to scurry out of the apartment they share every time Richard's father is visiting. And this irks Leela. In Mumbai, Leela's friends are Chitra, Sathya and more importantly Vikram Sahni. Or is he important?
   Anjali Joseph
(Photograh: Courtesy C.J. Humphries)
Joseph as an author carves Leela's character without delving too much into her looks or her bank balance, there is absolutely no mention of who Leela is (apart from the fact she is Bengali and studied in Cambridge, London). For Joseph, what Leela does is more vital to the plot. Leela Ghosh, 21-year-old, is working in Paris. She teaches English to the French and this is a temporary job. She doesn't renew her contract, heads back to London for Christmas celebrations with her friend Amy and her family. Her visit to Pune and then Mumbai gives her a sense of being at home. She meets Vikram Sahni in Mumbai, and he seems promising for a permanent role in her life.
This book is not for those who love speed reading. There is a sense of slow motion in Joseph's description of Leela's thoughts in the book — be it Leela smoking, meeting new people, or even her sex life. Each action is interspersed with Leela's flow of thought. Leela stays with you, her nomadic tendency is clearly not as a result of love of travelling, but as a byproduct of her state of mind. Joseph has got one thing right, the mood of the geography — she captures the everyday-ness of the cities and the landscapes of Paris, London and Mumbai. Leela is a bore, yes, but, like a dialogue in a movie goes, she seems to be her own favourite. 
sanjitha (dot) bw (at) gmail (dot)com