Osip Bala Krishnan is a student at a boarding school in Kasauli, who falls in love with his English teacher, Elizabeth. Named after the Russian poet Osip Mandelstam by his Stalinist grandfather—with whom Osip shares a unique mental condition that often causes him to hallucinate incidents of Russia in the mid-20th century—he is determined to find Elizabeth, after she disappears. In the process, Osip unravels the secrets of why his grandfather pretends he cannot remember his past.
Osip’s journey is aided by his friend, Anand, a god-man on the make; Arjun Bedi, an iconoclastic writer disintegrating under harassment allegations; and the corpse of the school priest, which Osip and Anand kidnap to extort seed money for their adventures.
Through a clutch of dramatic characters, the plot traces and connects contemporary themes of transgressive relationships, gender politics, nationalism, individual freedom and group rights, fake news, and power. Sad, funny, and insightful, the novel asks: Can a dysfunctional young man survive in a deranged world, our world?
A parallel lifetime of a read, with a thumping poetic heartbeat from the first paragraph – DBC PIERRE, BOOKER PRIZE WINNER, 2003