Vikram Chandra


Love and Longing in Bombay


Definitely one for the critics but not so much the mainstream. The characters could be described as refreshingly non-stereotypical … my only problem was that I didn’t find them that refreshing. Sure, he writes capably in contemporary urban Indian settings and picks up on religious and racial tensions without merely vilifying one party. There’s also something that reminds me of Kipling in the style of short story – a detachment? The supernatural leanings?


Whatever, while it was anything but cliché most of the time, the stories never really got me in. I didn’t really identify with or even like any of the central characters – perhaps I’m just the wrong audience for this one. The pages took a while to get through, I didn’t really care that much about the outcomes – especially in the ‘Dynasty’ style high-business/social machinations of ‘Shakti’ – the heroes and their quests made them look pathetic to me. And I suppose the final story that’s supposed to be the real emotional love story clincher just left me fairly blasé: the fantastic stories within the stories that navigate the blossoming romance simply weren’t that fantastic for me – they didn’t begin to overwhelm me the way they apparently overwhelmed the beloved.


So, no. It’s not badly written, and I suppose I can see why it’s received critical acclaim … but if you find yourself agreeing with my preferences in other reviews, I wouldn’t be chasing down this one.


October 2004