In a waterfront bar in Bombay, an enigmatic civil servant tells stories to a group of friends. His work, comprising five short stories set in Mumbai, has beaten The God of Small Things, the Booker Prize-winning novel by Arundhati Roy, which was judged runner up in the same category. Could it have been that Arundhati Roy and her book has had more than their fair share of acclaim? Lal—decided on the winner and the runner-up. Lyrical and humane, this book plots a fresh path in Indian writing.
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In a waterfront bar in Bombay, an enigmatic civil servant tells stories to a group of friends. His work, comprising five short stories set in Mumbai, has beaten The God of Small Things, the Booker Prize-winning novel by Arundhati Roy, which was judged runner up in the same category.
Could it have been that Arundhati Roy and her book has had more than their fair share of acclaim? Lal—decided on the winner and the runner-up. Lyrical and humane, this book plots a fresh path in Indian writing. He does not reproduce old Bombay stories as his own first inventions. One of these women, ageing and unattractive, represents old money; the other, a younger and appealing former air hostess married to a millionaire, represents new.
As they battle, in always polite but murderous fashion, for the leadership of their tight, snobbishly exclusive circle, one might be reading, updated, some story of colonial life by Somerset Maugham, so sharp is the irony and so vivid the characterisation.
But such stylistic dazzle was beyond Maugham, always so unadventurous in his writing. Vikram Chandra has effected a number of miracles in his new book, a collection of interrelated short stories, which I believe stands up as a really fine novel… it is simply at ease, in a fashion rare in the contemporary novel, rarer yet when that novel addresses India, which seems to whisk many of those who try to approach it in prose into a frenzy.
Love and Longing in Bombay is a book that seeps and chatters in the mind of the reader whenever it is set aside. When you finish it, you miss it, as you miss a city, as Bombayites must miss their city even while living in it, on account of its unchanging traditions and daily frantic adaptations to the demands of the population, the industry, the west and the century… How rare and calm a talent… Chandra has decided to distil.
The effect is dazzling…. To write with such a swing and ease about so great an area of contested preoccupation is to prove that one is born to it. The stories themselves have a perfect, fractal symmetry, each stroke containing the whole in a series of breathtaking, ever-expanding reflections. The beguiling self-confidence of Mr. Today, a new breed of Bombayite—speaking Marathi, disdaining cosmopolitanism and espousing sectarian discipline and Hindu resurgence—has come to power, and the city is officially renamed Mumbai.
With Love and Longing in Bombay, Mr. Chandra is advertising his allegiances. This book of five connected tales is full and free and utterly alive, confidently crossing and recrossing contemporary Bombay. These stories are not, in the contemporary Anglo-American mode, temples to the symbol, or museums of the one resonant image that controls meaning. They dip their bucket into a different source. They have a gorgeous elasticity, and an absolute naturalness.
And this is not a merely negative triumph. These stories offer a world. They have the fronded, trailing carelessness that is never truly careless, and which comes from being dragged across actual lives. Compelling… Intriguing…. Bombay emerges vibrantly as a city haunted by gangsterism and simmering communal violence, and riven with distinctions of religion, ethnicity and class… Despite an undertow of loneliness and mortality, moments of clarity make these short stories journeys towards freedom and peace.
The telling and hearing of tales, Chandra insists, can heal and exorcize… The titles [of the stories] remain untranslated. Chandra belongs to a confident generation of Indian writers in English who feel little compulsion to gloss.
On the evidence of these absorbing stories, that confidence seems more than justified. An interlocking of stories, five main stories, out of which dozens of other shorter narratives unfold, one story begetting another and another in the concentric kind of narrative structuring Chandra evidently loves.
Artfully told… Love and Longing in Bombay leaves you with characters and images that stay with you long after you put the book down. Richly inventive and confident … Love and Longing in Bombay is an intricately built book, but it never feels murky or obtuse.
Love and Longing in Bombay is an ambitious, superbly controlled, gracefully written, humane book. Chandra, whose acclaimed novel Red Earth and Pouring Rain burst with fantastical tales of gods and people and a storytelling monkey, presents us here with more grounded stories of modern Bombay, of people high and low, good, bad, muddled and ambitious, and he does it in a wide variety of genres … Chandra fills the different stories with humour, pain, love, longing, and loss.
We experience modes of thinking and behaving that include love and longing but go beyond them, that have endured through the centuries. Love and Longing in Bombay is a collection of first-rate stories with vivid characters and a style that conjures up with swift economy the pain of love and longing… In many ways, Love and Longing in Bombay is more a novel than a collection of stories.
Vikram Chandra guards the sauna room of the soul, keeping the coals afizz as he saturates the air with dire reminders of fallible, finite, flawed existence…. This structure both formalises the storytelling act, and gives it purpose as a pastime, as entertainment, and as instruction.
The five stories are all love stories, yet they are also stylish mysteries. But Love and Longing in Bombay is very much set in Bombay and in the twentieth century—the nostalgic poise of the prose is blended with the sweep and chaos of modern Indian city life.
This is a winning combination…. Love and Longing in Bombay is a thoroughly enjoyable collection written by an accomplished and promising writer. The Bombay which Chandra portrays is a city just as vivid, vainglorious, and kaleidoscopic as that of Rushdie, but at the same time it exudes a greater charm, it has a certain stillness and languor… [Love and Longing in Bombay] is impeccably controlled and possesses a luminous intelligence.
It is Bombay which comes alive in these stories—Bombay where different classes collide, confront and coalesce in each other, because it is the only place in India where the power of capital is palpable and money has its own dynamic. It is a city full of fervour, always on the move and its people are devoid of that corrosive emotion of self-pity.
Vikram Chandra has been able to capture this spirit, but also the influence of the criminal underworld and the communal politics which has cast a long shadow over Bombay, transforming it to Mumbai…. These stories…. Chandra never loses control of his sensational material, never allows us to have serious doubts about the 24 -carat quality of his art. If a picture paints a thousand words, then sometimes a thousand words can create just as many vivid images.
The stories are rooted in a great sense of location, which reminds me of somebody like Steinbeck at his best. Chandra manages to leave the reader with a clear sense of the dynamic nature of Bombay, and divisions in modern India… …. Impossible not to lose yourself in its tumultuous emotions borne of subcontinental passion, longing, evil, death, spirits, and dreams of Bollywood. A personal and fascinating view of a labyrinthine Bombay and its inhabitants, themselves layered characters….
A remarkable and rewarding work. The story teller weaves his familiar but special magic which is disturbing and humorous in equal measure. Chandra has the power to captivate and shock his readers…. Although this is a radical departure from the style and content of his first novel, it nevertheless displays the continued intelligent command of diverse materials…. For his many fans this will be a delight. It also confirms the young New Delhi [sic] writer as without question a power to be reckoned with.
His next novel is looked forward to with eager anticipation. Love and Longing in Bombay is a dazzling collection of loosely intertwined stories.
He steers a steady course between the commonplace and the exotic…. If Vikram Chandra had been born in and not , he might have dreamed of becoming the Beatles—all four at once.
And like Capote at his very best, Chandra reaches deep inside these lives and uncovers the longing for love in a child that can turn even the best laid plans of an astute mother upside down and the social order with it…. Salman Rushdie has called Chandra flamboyant, and Chandra does write with the flash and dash of the great batsmen his cricket loving characters so admire. But what makes him even more satisfying to read is that his writing is as focussed, precise and accurate as the best of fast bowlers.
Rigelhof, The Citizen Canada. Wonderfully complex and entertaining… Mr. This collection reminds one of the fundamental pleasures of fiction: the enjoyment of surrendering to the engaging imagination of a superior writer.
Chandra knows how to catch a whole era of expectation and loss in a single phrase. Here, as the teller enters his tale, the stories merge with the frame narrative.
It is a clever and utterly convincing conclusion to a superbly crafted collection of stories. Chandra caught my eye with a marvelous short story about a Sikh policeman named Sartaj Singh which appeared in said India issue of The New Yorker. The story offered the right mix of crime drama and insightful character detail, and Chandra struck me as someone who was capable of, above all else, spinning a really good yarn.
The story was open-ended and somewhat ambiguous, yet not in the desultory, I-have-no-idea-how-to-wrap-this-up manner of so many contemporary short stories. And the character of Sartaj Singh was immediately compelling: the disciplined, talented policeman who is deeply conflicted and suspects that ultimately the biggest crimes—the ones we do to ourselves—can never be solved… The five stories in this collection, woven around the classic framing device of an old man telling stories in a bar, run the stylistic gamut: high comedy of manners, magical realism fabulation, crime writing worthy of Elmore Leonard, heartbreaking romance.
Singh, recently and irrevocably divorced from his wife, struggles with the dark places the failure of his marriage has taken him while trying to solve an apparently open-and-shut murder case. The story has all the familiar pleasures of the detective genre without descending into full cliche. As is the case with all superior examples of the genre, this can be attributed to the character of Singh himself.
Singh is one of those creations that all writers secretly hope to stumble upon: the character who instantly compels with his believability. Both frame and stories present Mumbai as the modern Indian city it is, replete with Meeruthis, street lights, mansions and shanty towns, computers, businessmen, artists and crooks.
Love and Longing in Bombay, in short, develops complex, convincing characters that stay with a reader long after she has closed the book, narrates involved, absorbing stories not easily forgotten either, and recreates a world that does its setting justice. It does all this in a spirit of artistry both timeless and contemporary at the same time. It is an excellent book. Love and Longing in Bombay is a skilfully crafted collection of five carefully linked long stories.
Each exhibits a formal unity and stylish assurance that compares more closely to the subtle undertatements of such other Indian writers as R. Prawer Jhabvala and Anita Desai….. We are… led to suspect that Subramaniam has fantasized and reshaped fragments of his own life in all these stories, and that his young listener is influenced to follow his example.
Good as his debut was, he surpassed it with Love and Longing in Bombay. Chandra is a writer completely unafraid of being thought old-fashioned, and the book unwinds as a series of stories told by a narrator in a bar.
Though Chandra is still very interested in magical realism, at the heart of the book are some wonderfully Victorian subjects and good, solid, traditional stories. A marvellous, irresistible pleasure, and a fabulous new voice in the Indian novel. Reading this quintet of brilliantly sculpted short fictions one is not only made to feel the physical crush of contemporary Bombay—a fusion of the beautiful and dangerous, the mythic and mundane, ghosts and gangsters—but also given an insight into its infrastructure: caste, sex, money and religion.
The latter, featuring a down-at-heel, soon-to-be-divorced, Sikh cop dragging his heavy heart through the urban anomie, grips with its mystery, aches with empty lust and sears with naked emotion.
If I was to classify, these are the two books. Once in a while you come across a book that makes you read with a kind of greed, as if you were breaking a fast. Despite the exotic setting, the stories have an immediacy that makes them universal.
LOVE AND LONGING IN BOMBAY. By Vikram Chandra . Little, Brown: 288 pp., $22.95
Start your review of Love and Longing in Bombay Write a review Shelves: 4-star , reviewed , 1-read-on-hand , person-of-everything , r-goodreads , r , antidote-think-twice-read , antidote-think-twice-all 4. Nationalism in one and hoards of what I take to be Hindi with no sign of footnotes in the other. The adult returning to whence their childhood once ran from. The Great Gatsby.
Love and Longing in Bombay
Be wily, be twisty, be elaborate. Forsake grim shortness and hustle. Let us luxuriate in your curlicues. Besides, you need a frame story for its peace and quiet. Thus the story is perfect in itself, complete and whole. And he recognizes that a story need not be perfect in itself to compel--and move--the reader. Jago Antia turns 50 and begins to feel a pain in his phantom leg, which he had had to amputate himself, in battle, 20 years earlier.
Love and Longing in Bombay: Stories
When I started going there, he had been retired for six years from the Ministry of Defence, after a run of forty-one years that had left him a joint-secretary. I was young, and I had just started working at a software company which had its air-conditioned and very streamlined head offices just off the Fountain, and I must confess the first time I heard him speak it was to chastise me. He had been introduced to me at a table on the balcony, sitting with three other older men, and my friend Ramani, who had taken me there, told me that they had been coming there for as long as they had worked and longer. Subramaniam had white hair, he was thin, and in the falling dusk he looked very small to me, the kind of man who would while away the endless boredom of his life in a bar off Sasoon Dock, and so I shaped him up in my mind, and weighed him and dropped him.