(Originally reviewed on Goodreads: Jan 24, 2013)
“How do you find yourself at the age of eighteen out on the streets with nothing and no one? Are we so small, so very small, that the world continues to turn, immensely large, and couldn’t care less where we sleep?”
Four years ago, on my way home one night, I met a girl in the train. She was a kid really, selling cheap jewellery. I was standing by the exit, waiting to get down at the next stop. The train jerked, she dropped her stuff and I helped gather it all up – maybe that’s how we got talking. It was a conversation that lasted less than a minute because I had to get down soon, but I remember asking her where she lived. She said:
“Hamara toh koi thikaana nahi hai didi. Hum toh bas idhar-udhar so jaate hai. Kismet ho toh platform par.”
“People like me don’t have destinations. We sleep here and there; on platforms when we’re lucky.”
I can’t stop thinking about that encounter ever since I began reading No and Me.
I liked this book a lot. I think I would have liked it just as much even if I hadn’t met that homeless girl that night. No and Me has an impressive subject, two brilliantly sketched characters and a beautifully written story. It’s amazing how this book, which I stumbled across by chance, has left such a deep-seated impression on me.
I won’t say that the book is perfect. A lot of the things that happen are too convenient. Plus the book ends so suddenly that it’s bound to leave a lot of readers feeling high and dry. But that does not really matter – not to me at least.
For me, No and Me isn’t so much about the story as the strangely beautiful bond it explores between the two girls – Lou and Nolwenn. Two girls, who live in starkly different worlds within the same city. Two girls, who try to help each other and make promises they can’t keep. Two girls, who can never fit into each others’ worlds, no matter how hard they try.
And just like that incident in the train, this book doesn't really make me sad; rather, I feel tormented, ill-at-ease and thoughtful. I feel guilty that I never asked her name. I wonder where she is now, where she’s sleeping tonight.
No and Me deserves a lot more readers than it gets.
“Before I met No I thought that violence meant shouting and hitting and war and blood. Now I know that there can also be violence in silence and that it’s sometimes invisible to the naked eye. There’s violence in the time that conceals wounds, the relentless succession of days, the impossibility of turning back the clock. Violence is what escapes us. It’s silent and hidden. Violence is what remains inexplicable, what stays forever opaque.”
3.5 rounded off to 4