Lanterns on their Horns

Radhika Jha
Lanterns on their Horns

Manoj Mishra gives up his PhD and moves with his wife to be part of KIRD – an institute that perfects artificial insemination, fertilising the Indian cow with European sperm so she produces more milk to end poverty in the villages. In Nandpur, a village that has consciously decided to turn it’s back on modernity, Ramu the village charity case sneaks off and marries a beautiful educated girl, Laxmi. A few weeks later he finds an abandoned cow in the forest and adopts it. The two unlikely couples meet when Manoj inseminates Ramu’s no-good cow with European bull sperm and they all rush headlong towards a confrontation in which what is at stake is not a cow or a human, but the identity of Nandpur, and of India, itself.

The vividly drawn cast of characters, the intimate social intercourse described with playful humour, the underlying seriousness of the themes – the juggling of the old and the new, the whole process of modernisation – gives echoes of Naguib Mahfouz and a connection to the literary tradition of Dickens. Radhika Jha is the kind of novelist who can deliver on several different levels at once, while always maintaining the lightest of touches.

‘Radhika Jha’s second novel is about transformations in the heart and body of India – a highly affecting and finely crafted story. Lanterns is a seductive novel about the potential change beckoning hundreds of millions of Indians: a witness to India’s complex interiors, and the revolutionary “churn” underway. This wonderfully warm and properly grounded novel is a great place to become familiar with it.’ Independent

‘A marvellous book. Great novels succeed in telling the truth in ways that the most detailed textbooks can never hope to achieve, and Lanterns on their Horns does just this. Radhika Jha deals with that most serious of subjects, how to introduce modern methods to backward rural communities, with a sensitivity, a playfulness and an empathy which forces the reader to understand what is at stake. The village of Old Nandgaon will live on in the reader’s heart long after progress has swept its real life counterparts into the dustbin of history. Through the passions, the struggles, the ambitions and the tragedies of the inhabitants of Nandgaon, the reader begins to understand something about what is lost as well as gained when a poor rural village is dragged into the twenty-first century. Lanterns on their Horns will change the way you think about the world’s poorest billion.’ Michael Ridpath

‘The village is untouched by the glitz and clamour of modern living. Its sense of duty, as also its sense of beauty, inherited from age-old beliefs… The circle of life completes itself here among the idyllic huts whose walls are decorated with beautiful paintings that hark back to the days of Krishna and his cowherd friends… No one goes hungry in Nandgaon; life is both good and godly. What could possibly penetrate this carefully protected cocoon of innocence? Only artificial means can pierce this fictional village in Radhika Jha’s novel’ The Hindu


  • HarperCollins India
  • Editions Philippe Picquier France
  • Neri Pozza Italy
  • Beautiful Books UK (rights reverted)
  • House of Books NL

Material: finished copies (442pp)