Champion of Hide and Seek

Amit Chaudhuri

  • If You Are Afraid of Heights by Raj Kamal Jha
    Picador, 304 pp, £7.99, July 2004, ISBN 0 330 49327 2

This book begins to narrate its story, or stories, with the picture on the jacket; the story has begun, then, even before we’ve reached the first page. After a dedication to the author’s parents, we encounter a quotation from Paul Auster’s Mr Vertigo, which expresses, deadpan, the following view on flying, or weightlessness, or ‘hovering in the air’: ‘Deep down, I don’t believe it takes any special talent for a person to lift himself off the ground and hover in the air. We all have it in us – every man, woman, and child.’ Then we arrive at page one, whose opening sentences calmly exhort us: ‘Look at the picture on the cover, there’s a child, a girl in a red dress; there’s a bird, a crow in a blue white sky. And then there are a few things you cannot see.’ We look, and there is indeed a picture of a girl in a red dress, an anklet around her left ankle, hair coming down below her shoulders, standing very straight and looking out from a balcony, while a bird flies to her right.

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