Suri—who lives in Silver Spring and teaches math at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County—writes with mathematical precision, crafting images of surprising poetry, as in this flashback: “Vishnu came up after everyone had left, to find Nathuram fast asleep, the radio still on in his arms, waves of static whooshing through the landing like an ethereal tide.”
Visions and sensations pass through Vishnu’s dying dreams: the prostitute Padmini’s body covered with pulpy mango juice, the scent of cardamom-scented milk tea, the sound of rain pouring outside a hut as Vishnu’s mother regales him with stories of the Hindu gods’ aquatic incarnations. His life becomes a vivid pattern of images that emanate sensuality and earthly pleasure.
While Vishnu’s neighbors’ fights keep them earthbound, Vishnu’s soul pulls itself free of his body and ascends the staircase. Is there, as Mr. Jalal suggests, “something holy, something exalted, about being so close to death”?