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Teenage boy Anirban Roy grows up—not a lot wiser—in a small town in ’70s Bihar where his policeman father is posted to pick up intelligence on the looming Naxalite menace. Ganesh Nagar possesses neither village simplicity nor urban slick but observes a line of ethics that defies codification. It takes time for Anirban to learn to juggle adolescent angst and ping-pong hormones, loyal friends and part-time criminals, a bewildering succession of topsy-turvy lessons in life and lust, yet manage to keep the balls in the air. There are close encounters with animals, too: Experiments with reptiles; the sighting of bandicoots in full flight, their sleek coats gleaming in the moonlight; the hazards involved in stealing a parrot nestling; the part played by a domestic fowl in curing snakebite and predicting death; and the unusual role of donkeys in satiating adolescent lust. Rites of passage never got so down and dirty as in journalist Avijit Ghosh’s earthy account of boy-to-manhood in fictional Ganesh Nagar, an introverted district that could exist in India anytime, anywhere. Printed Pages: 248.