The Blue Notebook

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  • Format: Trade Paper
  • Copyright: 2010-07-06
  • Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

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Levine tells the story of Batuk, an Indian girl who is taken to Mumbai from the countryside and sold into prostitution by her father. The blue notebook is her diary, in which she recalls her early childhood, records her life on the Common Street, and makes up fantastic tales.

Author Biography

James A. Levine, a professor of medicine at the Mayo Clinic, is a world-renowned scientist, doctor, and researcher. He lives in Oronoco, Minnesota.

From the Hardcover edition.


The Blue Notebook

I have a break now. Mamaki Briila is pleased with me and she should be! I have worked hard all morning and now that I tell her I am tired, she smiles at me. "Rest, little Batuk," she says. "Today will be brimming with riches." Actually, I am not tired at all.

My name is Batuk. I am a fifteen-year-old girl nested in the Common Street in Mumbai. I have been here six years and I have been blessed with beauty and a pencil. My beauty comes from within. The pencil came from the ear of Mamaki Briila, who is my boss.

I saw the pencil fall from Mamaki's ear two nights ago. I had just made sweet-cake and she bustled into my nest with an immense smile, leaned over, pinched my cheek, and kissed the top of my head. As she bent over, the giant sacs of her breasts were thrown in my face so that I could actually see the sparkling of sweat between them. She smelled like us, but worse.

She had to hold her back and lurch to get upright again, and as she did her breasts swayed as if they were pets hanging from her neck, dancing. She pulled the pencil from behind her ear and withdrew a palm-sized yellow notebook from an inner fold of her sari (or maybe her skin). As she opened the book, she peered down at me and another smile spread over her red face like water soaking into dry stone. She made a pencil mark in her book with a flourish of her bloated hand. She said sweetly, "Little Batuk, you are my favorite girl. I thought you were going to disappoint me tonight but in just an hour, you have made me love you." I am sure she was about to remind me of her thousand kindnesses to me but she was interrupted by a shriek from Puneet.

Puneet is my best friend and occupies the nest two down from me. Puneet rarely cries, unlike Princess Meera, who cries every time she makes sweet-cake. Puneet only cries when he has to and the shriek he emitted that moment could have split rock. It was a single piercing yell, not of bodily pain, because Puneet feels no pain, but of terror. Mamaki knew this too. Puneet is the most valuable of us all because he is a boy.

Puneet's scream killed the night silence of the street and the smile dropped from Mamaki's face like a coin falling to the ground. She turned her street-wide rear in my face and fled from my nest. I was impressed that an object set on earth as she is can move with such speed, when it has to. As she flew from my nest, the tails of her sari caught the breeze and reminded me of the sheets used to protect the crops from the summer sun. That is when the pencil slipped from behind Mamaki's ear, lubricated by her unique brand of body oil.

In Mamaki's wake, the pencil dropped to the floor of my nest, bounced a couple of times, and then stopped moving. I sprang from my bed and threw myself upon it. The pencil was mine by divine decree.

I lay upon the small object, silent and motionless. My mind went back to when I was a little girl in Dreepah-Jil, my home village. I would perch on a rock in the sun, sometimes for hours, even in the heat of midday, and imagine myself melting into the rock. Eventually from between the rocks or through the grass would scamper a little lizard. With its quick tight movements, it would look around and see nothing moving and feel safe. The lizard would relax and sun itself below my rock or sometimes even on it. I would not move, even if it sat right next to me. I would control my breathing and melt deeper into the rock until I became stone. I used my mind to control the mind of the lizard. I would speak soothingly to the lizard through the upper air. "Relax, little lizard, you will soon be mine."

You can look upward and see a raindrop that is destined to hit you. You see it, you know it is falling ever faster, and you know it will hit you, but you cannot escape it. So it was for the lizard. As I sprang upon the lizard, we might lock eyes for a hair of a moment. T

Excerpted from The Blue Notebook: A Novel by James Levine
All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

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