• Monika Satote

Whereabouts by Jhumpa Lahiri : Solitude, Thoughts, People and her

A mid-age woman with a fairly successful academic career lives alone in a lovely neighborhood of an unnamed city. This woman has a quiet life but has so many activities to fill her mundane routine.


Fascinated by stationery and her own thoughts.


Some friends, colleagues, lovers, and neighbors.

A piazza. Parties. A bunch of strangers.


Old mum who also lives alone, dead father. A strained relationship with parents.


One city, another city. The transition, the feeling of connectedness.


That’s pretty much it. Nothing more.


But there's a lot!

Reading Whereabouts felt like a moral crime, as it was nothing short of reading a personal journal of someone without their knowledge. Maybe because the pattern of snippets here is quite similar to how I journal - Random life details with no names and no specifications, just a record of what happened and what was on my mind. In this context, this book felt very personal. So much so that I read my older journal along with this book. Felt good to reconnect with me. The details vary, without a doubt.


Solitude: it's become my trade. As it requires a certain discipline, it's a condition I try to perfect. And yet it plagues me, it weighs on me in spite of my knowing it so well.

This book celebrates solitude, the concept that most people often confuse with loneliness. For me, solitude means not having known people around me and to be very honest whereabouts portrayed the idea of solitude that way. Another reason to connect with this book on a very personal level.



As for the title, it is very much apt. We trace the narrator’s whereabouts, knowing her life, her routine, people she knows, people who know her, and the thoughts in her head. I felt like stepping out of my comfort zone while reading this and oh boy, I loved the feeling. I never knew I could enjoy the thoughts in someone’s head at discrete places. And what brilliant language is used to convey those thoughts!


This may not be the best kind of read for everyone because there isn't a story or structure. It is trifling to find one in such scattered details. Lahiri’s writing oozes a lot of things that I adored. The writing isn’t sharp, it’s delicate and beyond sumptuous. The structure is different. I don’t know the target audience but I think the probable ones are you and me. Go treat yourself. I see future me coming back to a lot of chapters in this book.