Though this is the author’s debut, I happened to read it after I read the second work – Neti Neti, which can arguably be seen as a sequel of sorts to this book, not just because its protagonist happens to be Sophie Das, a character introduced in this book, but also because both the books seem to have a common theme of a search for belonging.
‘Lunatic In My Head’ has four principal characters. Firdaus Ansari, who teaches English literature to an apathetic class, pursues an elusive PhD, finds it diffuclt to connect to the authors she’s dealing with, fights staff room battles, suffers from near OCD and tries desperately to remain in love, as she lives with her grandfather, both of them conscious of a fragile balance that allows them to endure each other.
Aman Moondy, Civil Services aspirant, obsessed with Pink Floyd with a bunch of friends, each fighting their own battles with parents, siblings, lovers and representing the life of youth stuck in a small town.
Sophie Das, eight year old daughter of an English professor who refuses to be realistic and his wife who feels her husband has stopped caring for the family.
And Shillong, for this book is also about the place, its people, its gossip, its idiosyncrasies, and its clearly visible lines of separation between the natives and dkhar (Khasi word for non tribal person)
Each of them also live in their own fantasy world too- Sophie, who cooks up a story of being adopted, and Aman, who thinks Roger Waters makes songs based on the letters he sent him. The smallness of the town is perhaps emphasised by the degrees of connection between the characters, how their paths cross, and how intertwined their lives are.
Divided into chapters such as ‘Wonder’, ‘Sadness’, ‘Love’, ‘Courage’, ‘Disgust’, ‘Fear’, ‘Anger’, ‘Joy’ and finally ‘Peace’, the book passes through what can be seen as a cycle, and uses the mundane occurrences in a small town to reflect mindset and the paradoxical static and dynamic nature of the place and the people there. What takes it to a higher level is the moodiness that seems to reflect rainy and misty Shillong itself.