She felt like India, a mysterious country thousands of years old. Books could be written about her, but under all the written text and the coats of paint, deep inside her womb was something no one had yet grasped. This was why the Moghuls and the English, the Portuguese, the Dutch, the French, Coke and Pepsi, Star TV, everyone came, conquered, camped.
The front cover of the novel includes an intriguing comment: "If Lolita had grown up in India, she might have debuted in a novel like this." I probably would not compare Vladimir Nabokov's Lolita to this novel quite so freely. The former is a classic written from the perspective of an older man, while Babyji is, in my opinion, popular fiction written from the highly subjective perspective of a precocious teenage girl. But let's not be too strict with the boundaries... :)
Babyji tells the story of Anamika, a student living and studying in Delhi. The distinctly Indian novel relates her experiences of growing up and encountering the typical issues that are almost universal among teenagers: rebelling against her parents, discovering what love and sex are, having her first alcoholic drink and trying to decide what to do in life. The angst, the passion, the confusion, the hormones...
But Babyji is a coming-of-age story with a twist. Anamika's search of her personal identity leads her from one sexual conquest to another, until she has seduced and is sleeping with not only a classmate from school but also an older, divorced mother as well as the family servant - all women.
Anamika's character is both frustrating and endearing, shifting between childish and mature. Babyji is a good read for any teenager or young person, because the themes are familiar regardless of where you come from. And of course, the LGBT community jumped at a novel that embraces same-sex love in a non-Western setting. Among the novel's merits are winning the Lambda Literary Award for Lesbian Fiction and the American Library Association's Stonewall Book Award for Fiction 2006, allegedly the oldest award for LGBT books.
Abha Dawesar: Babyji. Anchor Books. 2005. 356 pages.
Random House: Babyji