Are there any stories left to tell about India’s most fascinating city?
Yes, most definitely yes, says Veena Gokhale, author of Bombay Wali and other stories, recently released by Canadian publisher Guernica Editions.
Bombay, like New York, Paris, London and other world cities, is teeming with tantalizing tales!
“Six of the 12 stories in my book reflect the slum-speckled, City of Gold I knew in the 1980s,” says Gokhale.
“I was a college student and then a journalist in Bombay, and it had not been renamed Mumbai then.
I wrote the stories in Toronto nearly 10 years later. I was doing my Masters at York University and the stories started tumbling out.
“The first, Reveries of a Riot, was in response to a very tense period of communal violence in Bombay in the early 1990s. Others followed.”
Says reviewer Heather Leighton about the book in The Rover, an independent review of art and culture:
“While her stories impart a genuine taste and flavour of India familiar to Indophiles, there is a definite departure from tradition in this collection, giving the reader a sense that considerable change is in the air… “Bombay Wali” is a welcome shift from the traditional portrayal of Indian women.”
“My stories are both character and plot driven,” says Gokhale. “The hero or heroine are intimately drawn, and I describe the people, relationships and issues in their life with as much depth as a short story allows!
The themes and emotions tackled are universal - friendship and resentment, family ties and freedom, despair and acceptance, ambition and uncertainty, growing up and growing old.There is a touch of humour and one reader told me that I create suspense. Some of the stories have an informal, playful vibe; others are more serious.”
The characters reflect the diversity typical of urban, contemporary India and come from different language, caste, class and age groups.
So there is Dilip, a dalit (lower caste) student who comes to Bombay from a small village to attend university on a government scholarship, and Munni, a little servant girl.
Feroza is a middle-aged Parsi woman, a university professor who is the primary caregiver for her aging parents. The setting for Feroza’s story is a Jazz Festival in Bombay. Ashok is a Maharashtrian businessman who prides himself on being “modern” and is put off because his niece and wife have compelled him to take yoga classes after a heart attack.
Bombay Wali means a woman from Bombay.
The book title comes from a story about three, young, women journalists – Renuka Rao, Gulnar Vaid and Tanya Trivedi – who are close friends. Renuka needs money and Gulnar comes up with a desperate scheme to help her.
Gulnar is also writing a novel called Bombay Wali.
By the end of the story, she has changed her mind about who is a real Bombay Wali. Is it someone born and brought up there, or an outsider who makes the city her own, is the question Gulnar poses.
Identity and belonging is a theme that recurs; hardly surprising from an author who has lived in 10 cities in 3 countries. In Canada, Gokhale has worked with non-profit organizations that focus on environment and international development issues. She currently lives in Montreal with her partner Marc-Antoine.
The three stories that take place outside India unfold in Kathmandu, suburban Tokyo, and on an unnamed tropical island and Toronto.
“The best part of being published is reader response, which has been very positive,” she says.
Veena Gokhale invites MyBindi readers to visit her website which features a short intro video, story descriptions and excerpts, interviews and reviews, ordering info, a pinterest spread of text and images, and more!
To get in touch with Gokhale please contact her via Email. She is available for readings at book clubs, guest appearances at community events and to collaborate with other writers and artists.
“The book can help spark a discussion about various aspects of life. So it is a two-way communication, not just “passive” reading,” she says. She also has Bombay, India and Nepal pictures to share.