The Folded Earth by Anuradha Roy
Anuradha Roy's second novel is a ramshackle but beguiling series of scenes of life in Ranikhet, a Himalayan hill station with pretensions to be the "Switzerland of India … Or at least it must be another Shimla". Our narrator, Maya, moves there from the southern metropolis of Hyderabad, following in the footsteps of her dead mountaineer husband. Having little else to do, she settles into the rhythms of mountain life.
Maya starts teaching at a school, a role which bizarrely requires her to oversee shifts at a pickle factory, and befriends an illiterate peasant girl. She also serves as a typist for Diwan Sahib, a waspish local scholar who owns a trove of letters between Edwina Mountbatten and Jawaharlal Nehru, but whose life's work is an endlessly rewritten biography of the British tiger-hunter Jim Corbett.
This last, vaguely superhuman figure provides a foil for Roy's wry sketches of local politics (one official erects signs all over the town bearing such salutary slogans as "Walk in Nature Zone, It is Health Prone"), as well as for her quietly ecstatic flights into nature lyricism.
Updated: February 18, 2011 04:00 AM