Unfolding earthly lives

Unfolding earthly lives

The folded earth
Anuradha Roy
Hachette India
2011, pp 262

The Folded Earth has a poetic quality to it, that brings home the wind, the fragrances and the sounds of her tale.In The Folded Earth, Maya, the protagonist, is running from her shattered and broken life, and takes refuge in a lonely town in the foothills of the Himalayas — Ranikhet.

In Ranikhet, she is immediately immersed in a way of life that is alien to her home in Hyderabad. Back home in the bustling centre of Andhra Pradesh, her family runs a pickle-making business, while in Ranikhet, she is alone and teaching indifferent school children. The contrast in her lifestyles, provides the setting for a jewel of a story.

In Ranikhet, Anuradha Roy introduces us to many well-crafted characters like Charu, Diwan Sahib, Ama and Puran, not to mention a host of others, all of whom have a part to play in the healing process for Maya.

The counterpoint, and the only turbulence in the book is based around Veer, who throws Maya’s life completely off-balance, yet again. The rest of the characters seem to have a quality of un-changeableness, and are in some ways, predictable; while Veer remains an enigma and feels slightly dangerous right up till the end. It is the story of Veer that carries the book till its climax.

One of the story’s biggest strengths is Anuradha’s portrayal of the Diwan Sahib. He is the probably the most colourful character in the book, and is in some ways, deeper than the character of Maya. He is an irascible old-timer, he is Maya’s strength and her salvation. His reminisces are interesting, vivid and brings in another angle to the story which relieves the monotony of life in Ranikhet in a very engaging manner. Diwan Sahib will draw readers to him, and it seems impossible, not to either love him or hate him. 

The story also contains Charu, Maya’s student and friend, who falls headlong into an impossible love, and when that love is threatened, Roy describes the determination of Charu to make it work. The qualities Charu has been endowed with, seem to be reflected in all the residents of the hills. Whether this reflection is accurate or not, is something that you will need to examine and understand for yourselves.

The story is poignant throughout, but no one will touch your heartstrings more than Puran. A harmless lunatic, Puran is the embodiment of the mad men you may have seen on the road — ragged, filthy, and a little frightening. However, the goodness of his heart doesn’t seem impossible, or even improbable, when you read The Folded Earth.

Taken as a whole, The Folded Earth is a brilliant read. The slightly slow pace of the story is well balanced by entertaining and engaging narratives that contribute to the story in a real way. Maya’s desolation and subsequent recovery are subjects handled with finesse and deep understanding. In some ways, The Folded Earth makes you believe in re-starting your life, whether there is a need to, or not. Thought-provoking stories are not to be found by the dozen, and The Folded Earth is that much more valuable for the flair with which it has been written.