Book: Bombay Hangovers
Author: Rochelle Potkar
Genre: Fiction, Short Stories, Indian writing in English
Warning: Explicit content
Available at: Amazon.in
Review Copy: Himalayan Book Club
Our world is made up of stories and most have already been told. It takes an exemplary storyteller to bring life to the mundane and the inconspicuous. Unabashed rendering of exotic yearnings, sensitive descriptions of romantic longings, intense emotions of despair, the gravity of age, trappings of secrets, and a gamut of vast emotions, and scenes flow through the pages of Bombay Hangovers by Rochelle Potkar. The book title is reminiscent of a city, clinging to a past, delving in intoxicating memories of humans, with all their flaws and follies, oft succumbing to the power play of destiny.
Exotic words describe marital bonds from early years of lustful romance to the complacency and frustrations of tired householders. The fragility of the aged, raciness of the illicit, achiness of nostalgia and aging bones, the darkness of lust, tender cares of motherhood, the inevitability of fading youth, travails of escapism, and troubled demons of haunted pasts – each story is woven to create an elaborate tapestry. This is not a leisurely read because it digs into the crevices of fears and passions, dreads and desires, showing us a mirror, bringing to life a society that we chose to ignore, to let pass by us. Yet, it pulls you in, word-by-word, page-by-page as it rips away the facade and unmasks the raw truth pulsating in the heart of Mumbai.
The stories delve into different social classes in the city of Mumbai, as it is now known. Metaphors and analogies embellish the book, revealing research and understanding of the nuances of geometrical terms, workings of a cotton mill, the Goan real-estate, the dhobhi ghat, the underbelly of city life, just to name a few. Details are rendered with care, without haste, each word conjuring imagery, sometimes leaving you embarrassed, mostly engrossed. The no-holds-barred flourish of a bold pen takes you on a breathtaking journey into the lives of ordinary men and women.
A few typos are glaring, a sudden shift in the person of narration is disconcerting, and you wish these were not there. Amidst all the beauty of the words, I felt the writing could have been tauter in some stories. Some descriptions could be less superfluous, allowing the reader to savor the exquisite composition and leave some space for musings. The comparatively shorter stories are my favorite in this collection of 16, as they are the most impactful. The introduction is exquisitely written though it contains insights into stories so you may want to read it after diving into the book.