Despite appearances, and being a brilliant student and head prefect, Anamika Sharma isn’t your typical nice girl. She is doing great in school, is the beloved of her teachers, respected by her peers, and is governed by a certain morality that drinking alcohol and smoking marijuana is wrong. But, despite all this, Anamika has sexual yearnings that she dare not disclose.
At the age of 16, Anamika fantasises about being a philanderer and how she would “take” her lovers. She relates more to a character of a book who as an old man desires young girls. The book Babyji describes freely Anamika’s sexual experiments and escapades while giving details that many would find reprehensible.
But, just like many other novels that people would consider “scandalous” the novel offers an excellent investigation into issues of morality and a questioning view into what we call the “rule book”. In Delhi, Anamika flirts with Adit, who is much older than she is and married. However, three of her lovers are all women. There’s Tripta, an older, divorced woman, Rani, her servant, and Sheila, a pleasantly fresh-faced school-girl.
If you were repulsed at the mention of a servant, this is the whole point of the book. Babji is both a rebellion against the morality rule book and a coming of age story. It is a rebellious call against what people would refer to as “unconventional” sexualities.
The book offers the reader a genuine chance to question the simplistic systems and thought processes that have been part of the socialisation of human societies. We have been taught that being gay is a western ideology. However, sexuality is not a binary and is, rather, a spectrum. If you judge Anamika’s sexual inclinations, the other side of the coin could be pointing out your oblivious bigotry. Anamika’s world is not made up of only black and white. There are a lot of grey areas in it. After being harassed on the bus by the “cheapheads”, Anamika becomes more aware of her behaviour with Sheila that could be termed as predatory. She becomes aware of her carnal fantasies that have reduced relationships with other people into an orgy of sorts.
Anamika discovers that she’s got a lot in common with Chakra Dev Yadav her classmate and isn’t amused by it. She decides to take up the challenge of making him see his folly because she believes “we all have a terrible beast inside”. If you’re looking for a novel that is both sensual and cerebral or contains as much pornography as it does philosophy, Babyji will quench your thirst.
One of the most interesting and appealing aspects about the book is that it creates the perfect balance between Anamika’s sexual and intellectual experiences. Her emotional state is described by scientific metaphors. The heaviness of adolescence is lifted as the novel progresses and Anamika finds herself in her writing and the books she reads
Anamika realises that she’s become a selfish friend, a reckless daughter and a not-so-honest daughter. However, she tries her best to become the best she can be.