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The Impossible, Miraculous and the Probable


Usha Nagpal

REFUGEES FROM PARADISE
By Anuradha Majumdar
Penguin Books, Delhi, 2004, pp. 282, Rs. 295.00

VOLUME XXIX NUMBER 3 March 2005

Martin Gray defines magic realism as “fiction which mixes and disrupts ordinary everyday Realism with strange, ‘impossible’ and miraculous episodes and powers” and Anuradha Majumdar’s novel takes these ‘impossible’ and ‘miraculous powers’ into the realm of probability where the reader oscillates between reality and fantasy and thinks ‘well, I guess it could happen.’ A novelist creates an imaginary world generally inhabited by characters which are larger than life and invites the reader to enter it ‘suspending disbelief’ but Anuradha Majumdar conjures up an illusionary world with the help of simple, down to earth characters who seem to invite you in without suspending disbelief. Her world is like a reflection seen in water where a small ripple could distort the image but she deftly manages to keep her waters still and the reader is left wondering whether what was seen was reality or illusion. But as Milton, the poet incarnate as a cat in the book, says “Reality is the most common illusion of our times”.   Jonathan, the protagonist as a young boy of fifteen, (or is he?) had heard a fantastic story about a plane crash in Assam during World War II that has possessed him these twenty years and he is waiting for a ‘smooth download from the muse to turn it into a film—a medium that creates an illusion of reality. What’s more, he is currently engaged as a theatre actor in London, pursuing a similar goal. He lives in Casa Mira, a house run by Miss Brenda who only rents out her rooms to people from the theatre, thus the stage is set for drama to unfold.   Ironically, the only boarder not connected with the theatre is Christopher Rose who eventually turns out to be the lead player of this convoluted drama. He is the surviving co-pilot of the plane crash whose unexplained disappearance has haunted Jonathan. They both seem to be in search of Gautami, the Baul singer who had saved Rose and had miraculously vanished when she was pregnant with Rose’s child. She reappears as Anjali Mehra, a TV journalist from Delhi, who is making a documentary about refugees and wishes to interview the illusive Mr. Rose (nee Sidharth Casper), a sort of legend of World War II.   Anjali completes Christopher’s search and now feels ready to depart the world but not before he has tied the threads of this ...


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