Thursday, February 3, 2011

Home is Within

The multiple stories in Vikram Chandra's "Love and Longing in Bomboy" are not connected by characters, situations, or scenarios. The stories do not directly connect with one another. They are not particularly relate-able. There are, however, certain themes that are incorporated within each story which allows readers to gain a more prolific meaning when thinking about the five stories together. One of those themes is "finding oneself."

In "Shanti," the story centers around Shiv who is a boy who has come back from World War II and doesn't know what to do with his life. "He had gone to the edge of his world and come back and didn't know what was next" (pg 232). He was lost. "He felt as if he was gone from himself " (pg 237). Each and everyday he tried to establish a routine by calculating the way the trains came into his hometown station. Then he met a girl, and everything changed. There was a change within Shiv. He become excited--a different person. Later on in the story we see Shiv meet this girl, whose name is Shanti, and their unique interactions consist of each other telling stories which flirt with the unbelievable or supernatural. But even so, Shiv and Shanti completely believe each other and through this common connection they fall in love. Shiv was lost in the beginning, he had a twin brother who he thought looked exactly the same as him, but in the end he realized through Shanti's view that he was different; and Shiv realized that she looked different, "more beautiful," than she had once in the picture she gave him. It is a story of hope and that even when a person feels lost he should know that there is a place in the world for him; there are still people who can change your life. By finding Shanti, Shiv was able to re-find a place in this world for himself. He found a new home.

The story of "Artha," I found interesting and mysterious. There is a theme of "finding oneself," but I found that this story was deeply layered with characters and conflicts. The story incorporates a few main characters, one of them was Sandhya, a hard working woman who owner her own company. She was a single mother, had an abusive ex-husband, and had a boyfriend who was a painter. Throughout the story we see Sandhya work her ass off to help better her situation and further her company. There was no getting around it--Sandhya and the people she lived with were working so that they wouldn't have to live on the streets. She was working to survive. At the end of the story we find out that her boyfriend Anubhav has been cheating on her. When confronted, Anubhav doesn't think much about it and just kind of admits it and shrugs it off. At this point, Sandhya has a breaking point and throws Anubhav out of the house. She took a stand against the man she thought she loved and continued to work hard and build her life.
The main character of the story is Iqbal, who works for Sandhya. He has a homosexual lover named Rajesh who he deeply loves. One night at a party, Rajesh tries to impress somebody by introducing him to an extremely wealthy person. When the wealthy man does not recognize Rajesh, Rajesh is deeply embarassed; he cries and wants to be by himself. After this, Rajesh disappears in the story and nobody knows where he is. Iqbal goes on a frantic search to try and find him; in the process Iqbal puts himself in danger by threatening very powerful people and almost gets killed on numerous occasions. In the end, he never finds his lost love, who we can assume has been killed. Their love story is intertwined in the city's Hindu-Muslim conflict, where the entire city is caused to shut down at times to stop various riots. Even though the people in the story have such an incredibly harsh live, they still have a hope of something more. Sandhya works hard to support he friends and family while making sure she is doing what is best for her. In the heat of such intense conflict, Iqbal still has the courage seek a forbidden love and at the end we learn that he will survive and move on--even if his heart is broken.
The story of "Kama" is about a police officer who is working on a murder case. The story follows the detective Sartaj who is trying to solve the murder of Chetanbhai Ghanshyam Patel. In the beginning they police think they have caught the killer, but in the end we find out that he was threatened and wasn't really the killer. Sartaj has a feeling about this the whole time and becomes suspicious of the victim's son Kshitij. The reader learns with Sartaj in the end  that Kshitij was part of a sort of gang. The boy found out that his parents were involved in some kind of prostitution. Kshitij, or his gang, killed Mr. Patel but are never convicted because the man who was set up dies in jail and the charges go with him. Sartaj is unable to successfully bring the boy and his gang to justice, which is upsetting to him. However, the story goes also into the personal life of Sartaj, which is falling apart. His wife is in the process of divorcing him because she is going to marry somebody else. Sartaj is terribly upset about this and wonders how his life has gone the way it has; he had loved his wife, Megha, and in many ways still does. But in the end, Sartaj reconciles with himself that he must move on and signs the divorce papers.
In all the stories of "Love and Longing in Bombay," there is a certain tragic feel to them, but it all of the stories there are characters who must overcome various obstacles so that they can move on with their lives in a positive way. The whole novel was bound of the story of Ranjit Sharma, a young man, who meets the elderly Subramaniam at the bar. The two of them have become quite good friends and have met many times since Subramaniam had first told Ranjit a story. All five stories in this novel are told by Subramaniam. It is humorous at the end when we find out from his wife that Ranjit shouldn't trust what Subramaniam says. As readers, we of course know that Subramaniam is a smart man. Even though he might have made up some of the stories, or parts of them, they effect Ranjit profoundly so that he himself can move on with the next part of his life and "find himself." 

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