Indian author Vikram Chandra is relatively new to the field of literature. He has gathered a lot of name and fame for his debut novel Red Earth and Pouring Rain. His second book was even more popular. Love and Longing in Bombay is a unique collection of five lengthy stories for which he won the Commonwealth Writers' Prize for Best Book. Born in New Delhi in 1961, Vikram Chandra was deeply influenced by his mother's passion for writing. His mother is a successful screenplay writer for Indian cinema. With this solid literary lineage behind him, Chandra immigrated to the United States and enrolled in film school at Columbia University.
'Love and Longing in Bombay' is an excellent novel by Vikram Chandra, which is his second effort. This is a fine example of story telling and fable-weaving as well. This novel is set against the backdrop of a smoky Bombay bar known as the Fisherman's Rest. This contains five stories that are narrated by Subramaniam who is a retired civil servant. This enigmatic storyteller even manages to captivate the imagination of Ranjit, the novel's main narrator who is an unfailing skeptic. He belongs more to contemporary Bombay than to the city's tradition and intrigue. The stories within 'Love and Longing in Bombay' could be read as five distinctive tales, each floating free of the other. Yet, there is a common narrator throughout the work. Chandra also binds his fables together with Hindu concepts of living, such as those of duty related to 'Dharma', fortitude related to 'Shakti', love related to 'Kama', economy related to 'Artha', and peace related to 'Shanti'. Each of these stories belongs to a distinct genre as for example in 'Shakti' which is a love story, two feuding families are united by forbidden passion; in 'Dharma' that is in a ghost story, a soldier forced to save his life by amputating own leg returns home to find that his house is haunted by the spirit of a small child; and in 'Kama' which is a mystery, a detective takes on a murder case and finds himself traveling deep into the farthest reaches of carnality and deceit. Tightly controlled and luminously written, these alluring tales prove once again that Vikram Chandra is one of the most original and accomplished writers at work today.
In Love and Longing in Bombay, Chandra reveals a striking talent for story telling. Overall the main strength of the book is its evocative narration that captures the settings of the stories well, be it a police investigation, parties thrown by women in Bombay high society or battles fought with the enemy. All the stories matches with the entire backgrounds very well.
Published by the Back Bay Books Love and longing in Bombay is indeed a remarkable creation, which is created wit immense love and care.