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Tultul Biswas

BEYOND SCHOOL
By Chitra Anand
Frog Books, 2013, pp. 200, Rs. 125.00

VOLUME XXXVIII NUMBER 11 November 2014

Adolescence is a stage of life termed as ‘full of storm and stress’ by many. The ‘negativities’ that are linked with adolescence very easily range from conflict with adults, mood swings, mood intensity, irritability, criminal tendencies, risk-taking behaviour, attraction towards and seeking of thrills, and so on. No doubt this phase of life has been studied by psychologists for many decades. Interestingly, Sigmund Freud had a big role to play in the making of this negatively stereotyped image of adolescence! Despite the fact that psychologists from the 1950s onwards have spent much time and energy studying adolescence from a ‘neutral’ point of view, trying to make sense of this roller-coaster time of life and de-stereotyping it, not much of this has informed popular literature so far.  In the world of literature and publishing too, literature for the Young Adult—popularly called YA—is a comparatively new development encompassing the ages that till now came under adolescence and youth. In some ways, this move also depicts moving away from the ‘negativity’ that was usually associated with adolescence. However, this shift in the view-finder is not always completely and satisfactorily matched by particular instances of books written for and about the young adult in question. Beyond School by Chitra Anand is a case in point that draws out a mixed response in this matter. A well-crafted novel, Beyond School narrates the intertwined lives and struggles of a bunch of expatriate adolescent (oops! Sorry! Please read ‘young adult’) students studying in an Indian school in Muscat, Oman. The narrative is vivid and has the ability to bring parts of the city of Muscat alive in the mind’s eye of the reader. The author’s attention to small details—like the description of the dress and mannerisms of an Omani businessman, the walk of a young strong mother from Sion to Matunga with her growing daughter on her back in the deluging monsoon rains of Bombay, the touching emotions and hatred for mosquitoes in a man who has lost his wife to malaria, the playful and yet intolerable lip smacking of a teenaged boy playing with chewing gum … the list is unending. There is no doubt that the author is a keen observer—both of the outside of her characters, and the inside workings of their minds and hearts. One other strength of Anand’s writing is her characters. Most of these have ...


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