Mick Gidley


The plot of Mukul Kesavan's novel, Looking Through Glass (1995), almost presents itself as spectacle. Observation of its central mechanism grants us the kind of elation warranted by the sight of an elephant levitating. The unnamed narrator and photographer protagonist, speaking from the present of the end of the twentieth century, describes his current double mission: to scatter his grandmother's ashes ceremoniously in the waters of the Ganges and to take commissioned photographs of certain architectural features of the ancient buildings of Lucknow, an assignment that would require the use of his brand new, very powerful telephoto lens. Nearing Lucknow towards the end of the long rail journey from Delhi and with the train delayed on a bridge high above a river, he is tempted to use his new 'magic eye' (9). Off the train, standing on a vertiginous girder, he trains his lens on otherwise impossibly small figures washing clothes on the riverbank and then, far below him, spots, in the water, 'a man in a white kurta much like mine ... looking up at the train through a little telescope. Man-with-alens — here was the picture I had been looking for' (10). But when — after, as the narrator puts it, 'we stared at each other through layers of ground glass and I felt a quick affection for this unidentical twin' (10) — he tries to click the camera button, in and at that instant, he unbalances and, preceded through the whoosh of air by his heavy lens, hurtles downward into the green river. When he awakes, abed and cared for by a family that includes the same young man with the telescope, he discovers that he has not only fallen through space, but has fallen through time to August 1942.



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