india through lens

Francoise, an Australian photographer, attempts to document India in highly visual, quality images.

Fran introduces us to the story. Born with the rare ability to hear colours and see sounds, she travels to New Delhi, first, and to Bhopal, later, to take part in an artistic project to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the Bhopal Union Carbide disaster of 1984.

The photographs are witness to the traces they have left, the people they have been, and the surprising connections between them - in Delhi, Rajasthan, Varanasi and above all, in Bhopal.

The second character in the novel is Arkay, a man who is drinking himself to death, knows it and is unable to stop it. He craves a quiet life, yet, when a better life comes along, through Fran's love, he pushes it aside.

The third main character is Naga - the Tibetan refugee-turned-monk in Bhopal. As a boy, he was filled with rage towards the world when a gas leak killed his parents.

Naga turned to the monastic life to find a way out of rage, only to discover after 20 years that he must confront it again as he watches his sister die. The most resilient of the three, the most angered one too, he is perhaps the most vague, becoming in the last pages of the book, unfortunately, a mere go-between of the other two, the Westerners.

All three are believable characters, all create sympathy and a measure of hope. All are on a spiritual journey of some sort. In the end, Meaghan Delahunt's The Red Book is a book about identity.

The Red Book beautifully realises the voices of its three narrators, showing how lives entwine and split apart, and the coincidences, connections and disruptions between people, places and lives. It captures the irresistible attraction of India for outsiders; the promise of its spirituality and its layered history .

It is a meditation on the relations between East and West; on spiritual and political perspectives; on personal and collective responsibility - written in a clear language. Delahunt has created a book worthy of reading.

Title: The Red Book

Author: Meaghan Delahunt

Publisher: Penguin

Reviewer: Lindi Obose