Daring to Dream
Navtej Sarna
IF YOU ARE AFRAID OF HEIGHTS by Raj Kamal Jha Picador, New Delhi, 2004, 294 pp., 395.00
February 2004, volume 28, No 2

You must learn to stop being yourself. That’s where it begins, and everything else follows from that.’ Raj Kamal Jha uses this most apposite quotation from Paul Auster’s Mr Vertigo to preface his second novel. I call it apposite because the entire book follows from that. Let me say that this is not a book for those who prefer to stay within their own skins or constantly want to feel the solidity of the walls that surround them. After The Blue Bedspread, Jha has proven once again with If You Are Afraid of Heights that those who read him must be willing to let go, take a chance, be whisked away on a roller coaster whose apogee is invisible, lost somewhere in the clouds of the unknown. They must be willing to give up the comforting shores of sequence and plot and walk instead in the woods of fragmented memories, midnight fears and twilight shadows. That is the only way to enjoy the writing of Raj Kamal Jha, any other will only invite frustration. In fact Jha is very much like the man in his novel who invites a street crowd to take rides on his crow and see the city. In the words of that man, he too could well be telling his readers, ‘If you are afraid of heights, brothers and sisters, I have nothing to show you…’

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