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Love and Longing in Bombay

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On the heels of his award-winning and extravagantly praised first novel, RED EARTH AND POURING RAIN, Vikram Chandra offers five ingeniously linked stories--a love story, a mystery, a ghost story, and other tales spun by an elusive narrator sitting in a smoky Bombay bar. Critics around the world have embraced the book as a major work by this exciting young writer.

272 pages, Paperback

First published March 1, 1997

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About the author

Vikram Chandra

20 books438 followers
Vikram Chandra was born in New Delhi.

He completed most of his secondary education at Mayo College, a boarding school in Ajmer, Rajasthan. After a short stay at St. Xavier's College in Mumbai, Vikram came to the United States as an undergraduate student.

In 1984, he graduated from Pomona College (in Claremont, near Los Angeles) with a magna cum laude BA in English, with a concentration in creative writing.

He then attended the Film School at Columbia University in New York. In the Columbia library, by chance, he happened upon the autobiography of Colonel James "Sikander" Skinner, a legendary nineteenth century soldier, born of an Indian mother and a British father. This book was to become the inspiration for Vikram's novel, Red Earth and Pouring Rain. He left film school halfway to begin work on the novel.

Red Earth and Pouring Rain was written over several years at the writing programs at Johns Hopkins University and the University of Houston. Vikram worked with John Barth at Johns Hopkins and with Donald Barthelme at the University of Houston; he obtained an MA at Johns Hopkins and an MFA at the University of Houston.

While writing Red Earth and Pouring Rain, Vikram taught literature and writing, and also worked independently as a computer programmer and software and hardware consultant. His clients included oil companies, non-profit organizations, and the Houston Zoo.

Red Earth and Pouring Rain was published in 1995 by Penguin/India in India; by Faber and Faber in the UK; and by Little, Brown in the United States. The book was received with outstanding critical acclaim. It won the Commonwealth Writers Prize for Best First Book and the David Higham Prize for Fiction.

A collection of short stories, Love and Longing in Bombay, was published in 1997 by Penguin/India in India; by Faber and Faber in the UK; and by Little, Brown in the United States. Love and Longing in Bombay won the Commonwealth Writers Prize for Best Book (Eurasia region); was short-listed for the Guardian Fiction Prize; and was included in "Notable Books of 1997" by the New York Times Book Review, in "Best Books of the Year" by the Independent (London), in "Best Books of the Year" by the Guardian (London), and in "The Ten Best Books of 1997" by Outlook magazine (New Delhi). Two of these stories have been formerly published in the Paris Review and The New Yorker. The story "Dharma" was awarded the Discovery Prize by the Paris Review, and was included in Year's Best Fantasy and Horror (St. Martin's Press, 1998).

A novel, Sacred Games, was published in 2006 by Penguin/India in India; and by Faber and Faber in the UK. It will be published in January 2007 in the United States by HarperCollins.

In June 1997, Vikram was featured in the New Yorker photograph of "India's leading novelists." His work has been translated into eleven languages.

He has co-written Mission Kashmir, an Indian feature film starring Sanjay Dutt, Hrithik Roshan, Preity Zinta, and Jackie Shroff, that was released internationally in late October, 2000.

Vikram's mother, Kamna Chandra, is the writer of several Hindi films including Prem Rog and 1942: A Love Story; she has also written plays for All India Radio and Doordarshan. His sister, Tanuja Chandra, is a director and screenwriter, who has directed several films including Sur and Sangharsh. His other sister Anupama Chopra is a film critic and senior correspondent for India Today; she has written Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge, a BFI book about the hugely popular 1995 hit. Her first book, Sholay: The Making of a Classic, won the Swarn Kamal, a national award for the best Indian book on cinema in 1995. Vikram's father, Navin Chandra, is a retired executive.

Vikram Chandra currently divides his time between Mumbai and Berkeley, California, where he teaches creative writing at the University of California. He lives with his wife Melanie Abrams, who is also a novelist.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 173 reviews
Profile Image for Aubrey.
1,361 reviews795 followers
April 27, 2016
I spoke at length, then, about superstition and the state of our benighted nation, in which educated men and women believed in banshees and ghouls.
I chalk this work's low rating up to the collectively vain expectation that creations written in English will always be centered around the English and its domination of modern times. Colonization. Postcolonial. Nationalism in one and hoards of what I take to be Hindi with no sign of footnotes in the other. I would've been as lost as the majority of the US-majority GR audience had I not within the past year read The Discovery of India and Women Writing in India and Grains of Gold, so the position from which I speak is not a vaunted one. It's simply an observation that, thanks to my recently acquired background awareness of Mughal and Pakistan and Sikh, I was able to brush up gently against the references and sink my teeth into the marrow of the genre. The adult returning to whence their childhood once ran from. The Great Gatsby. The Noir. The Money Hoards of the New Tech and the Old Sleaze of Art and Power. The Story. I had to be led to why this collection is postmodern, but I didn't have to be convinced of how much this crystallization appeals. It's a world with no guarantee that all explained, not until such explanations catch you by the throat.
"Fire," he said. "Whoosh. One moment and a whole city gone."
"How?" It was Amma. Her hair was white, and she was wearing white, and she had a strong nose and direct eyes. The engineer looked up at her, a glass of milk in his left hand. "If you break a speck," he said. He didn't know how to translate "atom." "You release energy. Fire." Amma said, "How?" Now the children were quiet. Amma took two steps forward. "How?" The engineer gestured into the air. "It's like that thing in the Mahabharata" he said finally. "That weapon that Ashwatthaman hurled at Arjun." "The Brahmasira?" Amma said. "That was stopped." "Not this one," the engineer said, turning his palm down. "They used it." Then the food was ready and he ate.
It's not the universality of horror, but the history of it. The epistemology of what is accepted as sacred and what is requisitioned as fodder. I've spent enough time practicing the rejection of the masculine status quo, the heteronormative, the rich and the able and the ones who are not despised, to recoil on instinct to the majority of it, if not all. Ten pages without a bump is swell, fifty is a good sign, but an entire work where Others are not an ideal for use but a characteristic of reality is something I will always latch onto tooth and nail. As for the rest of the reasons why I enjoyed Chandra's first short story collection so much that I'll be looking out for his behemoth of a Sacred Games is, honestly, a voyeur thing. The sake of the new. The fact that I really don't indulge in South Asian fiction as much as I should be, and any intro into doing that more is good enough for me.

I'm not doing a very good job of selling this at all, am I. All I've said so far is that you'll probably need to read a history book about India and maybe some sociopolitical postcolonial theory while you're at it to understand why this five stories give me both chills and a craving for more. Simply put, I like the real beyond the facts and the statistics and the little Bombay dot on a googled geography map. I've got a hard enough time with engaging with US film that Bollywood probably won't ever snag me long enough for a lifelong indulgence, so this Bombay/Mumbai world of caste and the atomic bomb will have to suffice.
He knew there was a problem, but of course he had the essential belief that the wars of the past were fought because of benighted ignorance, that good sense would after all prevail. She wanted to tell him that the past was responsible for him, for his beauty, but of course there was nothing to say, no possible way to explain.
P.S. My Postcolonial Short Story class seems to be working, if this reception is anything to go by. Literary enjoyment's literary enjoyment, but it's always good to get your money's worth.

P.S.S. Apparently this is my 400th review. All that writing time I could've spent reading. Ah well. Where would've been the fun in that?
Profile Image for Daren.
1,329 reviews4,401 followers
November 8, 2019
In this book, Chandra provides 5 short stories (although one is more novella size), presented in a somewhat contrived format utilising a Scheherezade type story-teller device. This was pretty thin, but insignificant enough not to detract.
The five stories were mixed and somewhat eclectic. Each story has a title attributed with a Hindu concept (sort of based on Purusartha), loosely described below with each story.

Dharma (righteousness, moral values)
A ghost story featuring an army officer who returns home to sell the family home, and is forced to face his childhood due to a haunting. 4/5 Good pace

Shakti (cosmic energy, divine feminine creative power)
Two Bombay high society women carry out a socialite battle for the adulation of their common friends. Underhand tactics, and financial controls. 3.5/5 Light but amusing.

Kama (pleasure, love, psychological values)
Kama is the longest of the stories, sits in the middle and makes up the bulk of the book. A police murder mystery story - our protagonist is a police detective, working on the murder of a respected middle class father from a traditional family. Mixed in is the detective's own life complications, including the impending marriage of his ex-wife. 4.5/5

Artha (prosperity, economic values)
A startup software company tries to figure out why their accounting software is constantly 'out' by a small amount, with one of the characters also trying to figure out why his boyfriend has disappeared. 2/5 Felt dated around the IT details, and the story line didn't hold my attention.

Shanti (inner peace)
The narrator finds his soul mate, in a complicated story or stories. This is the only story not set in Bombay, but sets up the rest of the book retrospectively, as it ends in Bombay. Was a bit long an complicated by some of the stories. 3/5

So overall that averages out to 3.4 / 5, so I guess I am obliged to round it down to 3/5.

Profile Image for Indrani Sen.
354 reviews57 followers
July 22, 2016
All the five stories are very very nice. Loved the fourth one most. Vikram Chandra rocks.
Profile Image for Makrand.
163 reviews50 followers
May 31, 2020
Exactly like the title, this one's all about the feeling of Love & turmoil and the Longings one usually gets trapped in! Be it longing for a long lost Brother, Girlfriend , an Ex-wife or even a Boyfriend. All these short stories are linked with only one thing in common : Bombay
Rating: 3/5

There's a magic in Vikram Chandra's writing that is scattered all across the book in Love and Longing in Bombay. This is a set of five stories aptly titled and not connected to each other except that they all are connected to Bombay!

Our narrator, Mr. Subramaniam happens to be a retired senior usually meeting other characters in a Bar and telling these five stories to them. Barring one stories, almost all of the other four are Novella sized stories!

Some stories have been neatly closed while some bear an open ending for the reader to decide and interpret with major elements missing in it. However, Vikram's nostalgic and intricate writing about Bombay and various longings is deeply satisfying!

Dharma - ⭐⭐⭐ - First story to be narrated, this one's about Major General Jago Antia and it's a mild Horror story. Sure it gives you the necessary chills! I loved visualising the battle scenes and Jago's character as well.

Shakti - ⭐⭐⭐⭐ - This one's about a cold war being fought with Money and social status being the weapons between two of the high society's women - Shiela Bijlani & Dolly Boatwala. Thos story depicts the power you can wield when you have enough money yet there are still some things you cannot control. Subramaniam starts this one with: The beginning and end of everything is a marriage

Kama - ⭐⭐½ - Remember the awesome duo Sartaj Singh and Katekar from Sacred Games (Another Vikram Chandra creation)?? Well, here's where they were conceived in this very book!
This story is all about how things could be Deceptive in form of a Murder mystery. Apparently, too many things are left open in the end for the reader to decide & i hate it!

There's an erotic steamy scene depicting longing for an Ex-wife between Sartaj and Megha which is absolutely well written!

Artha - ⭐⭐⭐ - Vikram has ingeniously squeezed three or maybe four different stories in this one & unfortunately left the main thread untapped and left the reader in a complete disarray!
There's a plot about two lovers - Iqbal and Rajesh and a main plot where Iqbal & Sandhya try to save their small scale development company by fixing a bug in a deadline. Another plot is between Anubhav and Sandhya wherein Anubhav has a longing for a third person and so forms a love triangle however there's an Ex-husband in picture too forming another branch in the story!

Shanti - ⭐⭐ - Shanti, wife of narrator Subramaniam - This is a story of how they met and the struggle each one faced prior to meeting - A longing both were in, until they found love. Unfortunately this story had also a set of 4 more stories which seemed quite unbelievable yet sold as True

I'd recommend this book to: Literary fanatics would love this book, also i think anyone would love the book not for the stories but Vikram's magical writing which bagged him the Commonwealth Writers' Prize for Best First Book !

I'd recommend this book to:Folks who need a complete story & hate open to reader's interpretation type stories wouldn't enjoy the book!

PS. Vikram smartly writes the crux of a story right before narrating the story in form of Subramaniam's conversation which is very vital to understand what the story actually is about!
Profile Image for Bidisha.
48 reviews25 followers
October 25, 2019
Where dreams and reality collide ..

I was about 13-14; my transition from school literature, kids fiction & Dickens to more serious and worldly books had commenced. It is at the cusp of this bittersweet phase, I picked up an old dog-eared book from my Dad's shelf one summer morning. So far, I knew Bombay only as the airport where we halted for stop-over flights, connecting railway terminals, and its fame (and notoriety) for Bollywood and the underworld. With this book, however, it came alive... and now that I actually reside in Bombay (now Mumbai), I know there's nothing in Love and Longing that was exaggerated or over-stated.
Bombay is organic, intriguing, dynamic and accommodating, just as this book - one of Vikram Chandra's finest works.

Chandra is a stylish writer. He plays with the prose and laughs with the story. He peeps at you through the crevices of the plot lines and ducks immediately compelling you ahead. This feeling will grip you through Love.. and with the other work of his, Red Earth and Pouring Rain. Love.. comprises of five seemingly simple stories, only connected by the thread that is Bombay. The city spills through every story, yet, it manages to steer clear of the usual Bombay cultural cliches that pop culture presents to us on a platter.

Interestingly, the now iconic Sartaj Singh (of Chandra's Sacred Games fame) appears in the story Kama of Love as a policeman finding his way through a personal and professional turmoil.

There's plenty of intensity, suspense, some comic relief et al in all the five stories. Chandra ensures his character sketches are well-drawn and never stray from their expected personality traits. However, at the same time, they are lyrically showcased as sentimental beings and how they survive when surprising events develop in their lives forms the crux of the book. In fact, the characters are so real they may as well be the person seated on the next table in the coffee shop.

If not for the love of Bombay, read it for the love of story-telling.
Profile Image for K.J. Charles.
Author 59 books8,638 followers
September 24, 2018
A wonderful story collection/novel-in-stories with a fascinatingly old school framing device (the quiet man in the corner of the club who tells stories) set in modern Mumbai. There's a ghost story, a gangster story, and all sorts of love stories of various kinds--a gay couple of whom one has a secret, a soldier haunted by an unforgiven childhood accident, a policeman going through a divorce investigating the murder of a loving husband and father. Beautifully written and deeply engaging in much the way of the magnificent Sacred Games but a lot less daunting in page count. I am also picking up an impressive vocab of Hindi swears from this author. Superb.
Profile Image for Inderjit Sanghera.
450 reviews90 followers
June 20, 2020
Chandra's Bombay is one of slick-haired gangsters, of lachrymose loners, of petty crimes and love and lust, a city teeming with life and all the possibilities in brings. The stories depicted in this novel range from the depiction of a mysterious murder case which is being investigated by the dogged Sartaj, to the love story between two people who are brought together during a woman's hopeless search for her pilot husband who was lost during the war. 

Chandra skilfully interweaves these stories within the tapestry of Bombay, its veins throbbing with lives of millions of people. In 'Artha' a gangster quips to the protagonist that he is so faceless that he could quite easily pass as an assassin, given that he looks like everybody and, at the same time, nobody at all. Yet Chandra's choice of characters counteracts this point, as his narrators exist outside of the confines of normal society; this can be due to their religion, as with the Sikh Sartaj or the Muslim Iqbal, or due to their personal idiosyncracies, as with the shy and strange Shiv or the austere Jago Anatia.

Yet, there is a deeply humanistic streak in Chandra's stories, as each of the characters is attempting to orientate themselves in a world which has no easy answers, whether it be to the sense of ennui which overtakes Sartaj or the tragedy of a siblings childhood death which overcomes Jago Anatia; the characters depicted in Love and Longing in Bombay are rendered more alive by the flaws which define them. 
Profile Image for John.
Author 341 books166 followers
March 2, 2010
I bought Chandra's immense novel Sacred Games a little while ago. While it looks to be wonderful, I've been a bit intimidated by the sheer size of the thing. So this collection of five stories -- one short novel plus four in the novelette/novella range -- seemed a reasonable means of warming myself up to Chandra's work, as it were.

The five pieces are called "Dharma", "Shakti", "Kama", "Artha" and "Shanti". Shamefully I had to look up the meanings of these terms; I'll give shorthand versions, which are not intended as formal definitions, as I discuss the tales. Each has a frame, of greater or lesser perfunctoriness, in which it's claimed the tale is one recounted to the author by a retired civil servant called Subramaniam; in one instance ("Artha") there's a further layer, in that the tale is one told to Subramaniam that he's now in turn recounting; and in the final story, "Shanti", the master storyteller proves himself to be the central character, who is a teller of and listener to tales . . .

Do you get the impression this collection is all about Story? Yes, and it's quite a lot about Bombay as well, seemingly an attempt to give this city -- which is an omnipresent, often broodingly dangerous backdrop and sometimes almost an active participant -- the same sort of mythopoeic status as a New York or a Paris. I'm not competent to judge whether Chakra's attempt (if indeed this was his intention) is successful. I do know that I'm a lot more interested in Bombay than I used to be.

The centrepiece of the collection is the short novel, "Kama" (sensual pleasure). On the surface it's a mystery story, as a cop tries to track down the killer of what seems at first to be a traditional middle-class family's ultra-respectable father. Of course, the truth proves to be very much other than this, as the seedy revelations come tumbling out in typical police-procedural style. But, as they do so, the tale morphs subtly into one about central cop Sartaj's own need to reevaluate himself and what he stands for: Does he really want to be the all-too-easily-bribable, occasionally torturing cop he's somehow become over the years? Is his sense of alienation from those around him really to do with his adherence to a minority religion or is that just an excuse? Is his reluctance to let his estranged wife finally go by signing the divorce papers born from love or just from possessiveness? And so on. In the end, the solution that's offered to the murder mystery is actually the solution to Satraj's own existential maze. This may offend the occasional mystery-reading purist, but the volte face -- the pulling of the rug from under our preconceptions -- is actually pretty delicious. (Besides, the straightforward solution is actually there as well, if you think about it for a moment.)

Incidentally, this tale does contain one of the longest Truly Hot passages I've read in a while: for fear of corrupting y'all and sending Donald Wildmon into apoplexy, wild horses wouldn't induce me to divulge such information as: pp118-25 of the 1998 Back Bay paperback edition.

"Artha" (the urge to seek material wealth) is the longest of the remaining stories, and is another significant piece of work. On the one hand it recounts how the principals of a startup software company try to work out why the accounting system that's their first major business installation keeps losing the trifling sum of 20 rupees and 20 paise (about halfway through the tale I glanced again at the meaning of the term artha and began chuckling). On the other, it's a very moving and involving love story, as the narrator is drawn into a world of thugs and gangsters in search of the boyfriend who seemingly abruptly dumped him.

"Dharma" (righteous duty) is a good ghost story, in which a stiff military officer is forced to dredge up memories of his childhood. "Shakti" (divine female creative power) is a highly entertaining satire, if perhaps a bit slight, of Bombay high society, with two social divas duking it out in a publicly undeclared war; the irony here is that one of them is actually a significant real-world achiever and clearly of very considerable intelligence, but that this is ignored as irrelevant by all and sundry, herself included. "Shanti" (inner peace), in which Subramaniam discovers his soulmate and as an envoi our narrator discovers Bombay, is a complex little ants' nest of stories that I hugely enjoyed reading and unpicking at the time yet discovered afterwards was the least affecting of the five pieces.

All in all: Golly! As Pam will tell you, for the couple of days when my leisure time was obsessively devoted to reading this book, I was good for very little else. Sacred Games's 900 big pages no longer look nearly so intimidating. In fact, when I finish the anthology I'm currently reading there's every chance that . . .
Profile Image for Lori Kincaid Rassati.
102 reviews1 follower
November 9, 2011
I read a good bit of fiction by Indian authors. I have a deep connection to the subcontinent and try to learn about the culture through current literature. I have truly enjoyed works by Lahiri, Mistry and others. Their stories captured me.

Having giving that disclaimer, I truly did not like this book. Chandra is a gifted writer, no doubt, but I felt no connection to his characters, to their stories. Even though the stories were relatively short, I found myself having difficulty following them because I simply couldn't make myself care.

I felt like I was in the midst of a literary version of film noir, which might have been Chandra's intent. He certainly seems to have hit the ball out of the park on the *Longing* portion of his title. By the last story, Shanti, I was skipping whole portions just trying to get to the end. This is not an author who I want to read again.
Profile Image for Shrikanth Venne.
251 reviews13 followers
August 1, 2020
This book is about the stories narrated by Mr. Shiva Subramanium in a dingy bar in colaba named Fisherman's Rest. This book is written with the perspective of Mr. Ranjit Sharma, who joins a IT company in Fountain and is introduced to Mr. Subramanium by his friend Ramani. Subramanium narrates total four stories Dharma, Shakti, Kama and Arhta and one more story which is of Mr Subramanium him self named Shanti.

Dharma is about Jago antia who is a retired army man who after getting injured in the 1971 war where he looses his leg. He comes to his old house in Mumbai which was known as Bombay. The old house he comes back to is haunted. How Jago Antia de-haunts the house is the story. The character of Jago Antia is such that all the junior lieutenants want to become like Jago Antio a decorated army man. This story is mainly about dharma, as the house is haunted due to something that jago has done in his childhood and has lead to some accident. How he solves the problem is the remaining story.

Shakti is about Sheila who wants to become a aspiring air hostess but she falls in love with Cyrus bijlani and becomes a business woman. This story is mainly about two women sheila Bijlani and Dolly Boatwalla. Dolly is a head of a local club and is very rich whereas Sheila has just entered the locality. Sheila enters the Dolly's gang but then due to some they become rival. After that Sheila and her husband is rejected from the local club due to Mr. Boatwalla. How Sheila starts a new club in association with a Japanese company and how she invites all but not Boatwalla. Further in the story it is about Sheila's son and Dolly's daughter. Where again Sheila wons her son's heart by making their love blossom even after Dolly not giving her consent. This story is about how shakti prevails that is Sheila is compared to shakti as she looses then wins.

3rd story is Kama. Author has beautifully included the characters of Sacred Games with Sartaj as the same sardar police inspector,Parulkar as his head and Katekar has constable. This story is about some Chetanbhai Patel who is dead in undisclosed circumstances. Sartaj tries to solve this case and finds out why is kama related to his murder and also Rakshaks who kill/punish people who are unethical and Chetan bhai's son Kshitij is one of the member of the Rakshaks.

4th Story Artha is about Iqbal who is a gay and is in love with Rajesh pawar, who disappears as he is linked to some underworld don. Iqbal also work with Sandhya a divorcee who is a programmer and working in her own company. She is faced with issues in her life as well as in her application. How Iqbal solves her both problem at the same time is the story of the last story narrated by subramanium

5th story being Shanti his own story of how he met his wife Shanti and how he came to Bombay.

overall i would say author has beautifully discribed each story with related to the names he has given. So i would say its a good Goodread... :)

This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Jigar Brahmbhatt.
297 reviews126 followers
October 2, 2013
Here's a real good writer. All the stories contained in this book are well-drawn, its characters deeply sketched. There is nothing shallow here, and the joy of the language is immense. I liked the way Chandra has linked the different genera by a frame story: all the tales are told by a retired old man, who whiles away his time in a dingy bar off Sasoon Docks in Bombay. In fact, the tales could have taken place in any city in India, but it just happens to be Bombay, the muse of urban Indian writers.

I liked "Shakti" the best, a tale of feuding business families and how marriage can sometimes connect dynasties. What works in these stories is a deep human understanding that goes beyond the petty psychology some writers strive on. Consider this passage where the focus is on the central character Shiela, one of the controlling figures of the story, whose elegance and quiet confidence made me think of her as someone who looked like an aged Leela Naidu:

"She already understood that getting what you wanted from the world meant that your own struggles became grubby and irrelevant to your children, which was as it should be, that was after all why you gave them what you didn't have."

Another interesting tale is "Kama" which describes the ordeal an inspector Satraj Singh goes through to solve an apparent suicide of a Gujarati Merchant. Satraj Singh would later go one to have a book of his own in Sacred Games, and it is not difficult to see why. He is a full-blown character with layers of Indian everyman, and that makes him a very human detective, whose flaws we may forgive in the course of time we spend with him.

I don't think I will read Sacred Games soon, if at all. But I must admit that Vikram Chandra is a stylist one should learn from. This book should suffice if you want to read only one book by him.
18 reviews2 followers
August 27, 2016
I spent 12 years trying to remember a story which I'd read in the New Yorker, and loved. For years I tried to reconstruct scraps of what I remembered about the story--practically nothing, except the image of a woman's fingers flying over a telephone keypad. Not the author's name, not the character's name, and certainly not the name of the story. Since it was set in India, I thought it might be by an Indian writer, but I wasn't sure.

At last I found it by exhaustively combing the New Yorker's online archives. It was "Shakti," from this collection by Vikram Chandra. The second I had the story in my hands again, I read it with the same rapt attention as I had the first time, and I loved it every bit as much.

Yet the other stories in the book didn't hold my attention in the same way, although they were undoubtedly well-crafted and well-told. So while one story in this book still ranks as one of my all-time favorite short stories ever, the rest of it I can only think of with a sense of spoiled and entitled disappointment. Hence the "eh" rating.
Profile Image for Kishie Katira.
64 reviews
April 15, 2020
Chapters 1, 4 and 5 are the good ones. Chandra seems to have this style of not using speech marks sometimes, and I'm not sure if I appreciate that. Also, the novel may have done better if it had taken advantage of its 'anecdotal' setup (where much of the story is told to our narrator) to reveal the characters of the people telling them more so. Whilst Chapter 5 did use narration to show us the characters more than the rest of the book, I think 'Wuthering Heights' did this better; if you read that you'll perhaps see what I mean. Overall, I'm glad I read it, though if anyone wants to give it a go I'd recommend skipping Chapter 2. Quite smooth.
Profile Image for Sandeep.
219 reviews39 followers
December 11, 2015
Rating 2.75 / 5

I am glad, I am done with this book. I cannot rate it any higher, as the stories in here seem to be mediocre, lackluster & boring. Lots of detours within the stories, left me with nothing other than scratching my head. The way the stories started or ended, boy o boy I am NOT impressed. Writing appears to be intricate, many situations/ scenarios appear to be disjoint from the plot itself!.

Profile Image for dely.
439 reviews223 followers
February 21, 2017
The idea of five stories to talk about the purushartha is nice but I have found the stories a little bit boring. For me they were all ok reads but nothing more.

L'idea di Vikram Chandra, di scrivere cinque brevi racconti per parlare dei purushartha, è carina e originale; peccato che le storie siano leggermente noiose.
Profile Image for SuZanne.
277 reviews23 followers
September 13, 2020
Love and Longing in Bombay is what the title claims, tales of love and longing in Bombay, all told by a rather mysterious narrator, who meets friends in a somewhat dingy bar and spins the tales for them. Five in total.

"She would remember his gaze over the water and think that nothing and nobody was simple (p72)." This statement describes these narratives, which are rich in Indian history and cultural complexities, as well as characters' observations about life. Chandra shows us a richly textured, complicated India, where one's longings will not be fulfilled without some understanding of race, class, caste, and economic differences. "There were outsiders and outsiders."

Chandra is adroit at using interior monologue to unmask some characters' longings for love while keeping the interior of others a mystery to both the other characters and us.

"She doesn't see me. If she's talking to someone she keeps on talking. To such high people the rest of the world is invisible. People like me she cannot see. It's not that she is being rude. It's just that she cannot see me. So she keeps on talking about things that she would never talk about in front of you or somebody else. Once she saw me, but it was because she wanted to get water from the fridge and I was mopping the floor and she had to step over my hand (69)."

Cleverly, Chandra connects the five narratives in unusual and non-chronological ways. Little mysteries are solved, or not, and India remains enigmatic, complex and ever-attractive to me.
Profile Image for Sam Greens.
159 reviews
September 29, 2021
There were elements of this book, such as the atmosphere presented in each story, but the lack of cultural knowledge on my part made some things hard to follow.
Profile Image for Fran.
42 reviews
February 8, 2022
This is a really fantastic collection. The first two stories in particular are great. The last three are not quite as good, but the collection as a whole wouldn't be complete without them.
Profile Image for Gilly.
121 reviews3 followers
January 26, 2023
Beautiful stories and indelible characters. The writing is so propulsive that it seems effortless, but the craft is phenomenal.
Profile Image for Govind Pilla.
56 reviews
August 10, 2020
This is an awkward book and the stories are like some what strange , the narration of the author and the way he express feeling through word is good , but the content of the stories is somewhat creepy.

One thing for sure , the author has something against terrorism of religious expecially fulled by Hindi extremests.

The last story is good though , I liked it.
Profile Image for Larou.
330 reviews50 followers
July 3, 2012
A while back, I read Vikram Chandra’s debut novel Red Earth and Pouring Rain, and loved it – it was everything Magical Realism always promises to be but so rarely really is – it combines a rich, sensual writing that lets the reader soak in the sights, sound and smells of a vivdly evoked reality with a fertile, proliferating imagination that transforms that reality into something even richer and stranger but which still gives us a perspective on our world as it is – distorts it into clarity, to appropriate a famous phrase from Bertolt Brecht.

Love and Longing in Bombay is a collection of five stories, and it is quite different in tone from the novel, in so far as for the most part it sticks with traditional realism… or at least appears to. To me at least, there seemed to be a certain amount of litary pastiche involved, in so far as each of the stories is framed, placed in a setting where it is told verbally by a narrator to an audience, in a manner that I found very reminiscent of Joseph Conrad’s Marlow (or possibly the short fiction of Rudyard Kipling, who was also rather fond of that narrative device).

Each of the stories is named after a concept taken from Hinduistic philosophy - of which I have to confess that I do not have the first clue. I had to look the terms up in Wikipedia, but even at such a superficial level, having some idea what the concepts mean does shed some additional light on the individual stories. Both the narrative frame and the titles offer a perspective on the stories from the outside looking in, some rudimentary explanation or interpretetation, and both seem to presuppose that the stories are an illustration of some larger concept, or an example for a truth about life. Rather interestingly though, they never are the same, whilte the narrator Mr. Subramaniam always offers the stories to illustrate some point, that point never seems to stand in any correlation to the title the author gave the stories - the perspectives intersect, but are not identical.

The final story in the collection, though, is markedly different from the others: its title refers not just to a concept, but also to a name, and it is only one in which the narrator himself, Mr. Subramaniam, plays an active part. As if that was not enough to raise it to a meta-lavel, its plot also mainly consists of its two protagonists telling each other stories (which are given inside the story, but never as told by their original narrator, always passed on through an intermediary). This story strays quite far from the realism of the others, and I very much doubt it is coincidence that it is also the only one that (for the most part) does not take place in Bombay – making it appear as if Bombay was the gravitational centre of realism – or even reality – in India, with things becoming increasingly more fantastic the farther one moves away from it.
Profile Image for Neha.
281 reviews183 followers
October 28, 2014
Another book with Longing in its name.. and its theme too.. its true when they say that we all long for something.. some just know it and some don’t .. and its never ending.. one desire fulfilled leads to another and we live our lives longing for fulfilment. All in all life is a vicious circle of longing and what do we desire the most – love...

I have not been a fan of Vikram Chandra after reading ‘Red Earth and Pouring Rain’ and even ‘Sacred Games’ was just a decent read. But you can’t go much wrong with a short story.. It is concise and flowing with quick results unlike a novel where you can carry on forever without reaching any conclusion. This collection of short stories narrate the few sides of love and longing in the vibrant city of Bombay.. a gay man and a simple naive woman searching for and loosing love.. a lost man finding love in a woman stranger travelling in search of his own.. a police officer searching for the criminals while his own love fails and marriage ends... how the war between two families end with love of their children..

The best part of all these stories is that they seem like happening to someone you know or probably yourself. The incidents in the book is what we read every day... takeover by an upcoming corporate of an age old family business, lovers and canoodling at Band stand, noise of Hindu – Muslim riots and closing down of city, Gujju businessmen or Marathi Sewaks, page 3 news of artists and exhibitions, under the table dealings, and all the excitement and fear of association with gangsters. The entire theme and soul is of Bombay.. how lives evolve over here from poor to rich and vice versa... how everyone comes here merging into one colour but forming a unique shade of his own in this rainbow of a city..

In all the noise of the city .. if you hold your breath and think for one second .. there is only one feeling that emerges in your head and that is of longing .. longing for love... and this book brings it out beautifully.
Profile Image for Rachel.
110 reviews5 followers
December 12, 2014
Vignettes introduce you to a garden of characters; reading this almost feels like watching short films, observing rather than inhabiting carefully staged and haunted dioramas.

From "Shanti," a man remembers the death of his twin: "The newspapers [...] had reported with relief that on this day there were only six dead. One of the six was his. one body identical down to the strangely short fifth toe on the left foot. He had never known the bitterness of small statistics, but now he carried it everywhere in his mouth."

From "Kama": "He thought of the curve of her shoulder and the drops fell through the leaves above him. His eyes closed. He thought of Megha, and he tried to answer the question, Rahul's question, his own, and he said what happened to us was that we loved each other, and we were unkind to each other, and impatient, and unfaithful, and disappointed, and yet we wanted it for forever, but these are only words, and then came a flowing stream of images dense with colour and the perfume of her hair, and it carried him."
41 reviews23 followers
July 8, 2019
Vikram Chandra's writing style is just terrible to me. I cannot visualise a single scene he attempts to describe so very superfluously with a pseudo intellectual approach. I have to read each paragraph more than once to follow the narrative. Some of the stories don't have a conclusive ending and everything is left hanging, which could be stimulating if done well. I couldn't even get myself to read the last 30 pages. Plainly a painful experience.
Profile Image for Leslie.
825 reviews67 followers
July 14, 2019
A terrific collection of stories. The linking device (the stories are supposedly all told by the same man to the same listener, an older wiser man to a younger brasher one with more to learn about life than he knows) could have been developed more thoroughly, I thought, but I found these stories consistently enjoyable and effective.
Profile Image for Vinitha.
161 reviews60 followers
January 8, 2013
I liked Vikram Chandra's writing - I find it poetic and very dramatic. I am sure it is not for everyone. This book is like a Bollywood movie - every detail in the surrounding is described to perfection and it just flows together.

I am glad I picked this one
Profile Image for Seemita.
180 reviews1,615 followers
March 31, 2015
This eclectic mix of stories on the vast canvas of one of the most intriguing cities of the world is quite a read. I enjoyed the man and the ghost and the quirk and the serene. Vikram Chandra doesn't disappoint after Red Earth and Pouring Rain.

A nice breezy winter read for sure :)
Profile Image for Rachel Pollock.
Author 12 books64 followers
January 3, 2016
I don't know if I can speak coherently about the ways in which I love this book. I see why Chandra returned to the characters which recur in Sacred Games. Inspector Sartaj Singh breaks my heart in my favorite way.
267 reviews1 follower
August 15, 2019
Stories wander and then somewhat abruptly end. Not very clear what goes on the characters' heads. left me somewhat unsatisfied when the stories end.
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