What do you think?
Rate this book
292 pages, Paperback
First published January 31, 2012
Forgetfulness was a gift, a talent to be nurtured.In the war of remembering and forgetting, what side do we choose? Or do we choose at all? Isn’t life that, which happens when we are busy planning it? In the seductively opiated heavens of narrow-alleyed Bombay, a membrane-like life of a eunuch is stretched between her dreams and reality. The prima donna of a famed whore house, Dimple regales her customers with her melancholic eyes and business-like primness and efficiency. Wallowing silently in the memory of her departed lover, she wilfully insulates herself from her present state and instead falls back on books for sweet mental chaos. Come an unusually besotted patron one day and she switches her address in his favour. But does life change? Does the things worth remembering pile up and those worth forgetting, diminish?
Bombay, which obliterated its own history by changing its name and surgically altering its face, is the hero or heroin of this story, and since I’m the one who’s telling it and you don’t know who I am, let me say that we’ll get to the who of it but not right now, because now there’s time enough not to hurry, to light the lamp and open the window to the moon and take a moment to dream of a great and broken city, because when the day starts its business I’ll have to stop, these are night-time tales that vanish in sunlight, like vampire dust— wait now, light me up so we do this right, yes, hold me steady to the lamp, hold it, hold, good, a slow pull to start with, to draw the smoke low into the lungs, yes, oh my, and another for the nostrils, and a little something sweet for the mouth, and now we can begin at the beginning with the first time at Rashid’s when I stitched the blue smoke from pipe to blood to eye to I and out into the blue world…..Because life is never fair and such unfairness appears even more magnified when viewed from the dingy lows of a whore house, Thayil’s passionate alternating first and third person voices lose a bit of a steam in the midst. But closure, like opening, is his strength and he spools the lose ends into a tight bun yet again in the culminating chapters, providing a tender, poignant climax. And like the prologue’s beginning, the final paragraph ends with ‘Bombay’ – a masterful metaphoric touch to indicate, perhaps, the surreptitious phenomenon of life coming full circle despite forces at work to render it otherwise.
Dimple made Rashid's pipe the way she always did, calm and silent, her hands steady, while the tai drank her tea, made her speech, and left. That afternoon, Rashid took Dimple to a room on a half landing between the khana and the first floor, where his family lived. There was a wooden cot, a chair and washstand, a window with a soiled curtain. She knew what he wanted. She took off her salvaar and folded it on the back of the chair. She lay on the cot and puller her kameez up to her shoulders to show him her breasts. Her legs were open, the ridged skin stretched like a ghost vagina.(p125, US hardcover edition)
He said, you're like a woman. She said, I am a woman, see for yourself.