Bombay Minus Hope
Bombay Minus Hope

Bombay Minus Hope

Even though most of these stories seem to have fallen prey to stereotypes, a few still manage to stand out

Darius Cooper's world is not apleasant place to inhabit. Its characters exude fear, loathing and various bodily odours. Its streets reek of urine and hopelessness. Its imagery involves masticating vultures in the Tower of Silence and other unlovely aspects of death.

The Fuss About Queens and Other Stories is a collection of 11 short stories, set largely in the Bombay of the 1970sa city that runs on clacking typewriters and telex machines. Where irritable moviegoers queue up for hours and aunties sell illicit liquor. The Bombay of Coopers memory is a dreary place without laughter. Somehow, he has held onto the stereotypes and ugly details of the city in which he spent a part of his youth. The energy and redemptive spirit have drained away.

Readers encounter narrators from various backgrounds. Theres Neelkanth, a man plagued by a feeling of obsolescence, who wanders the city seeking a metaphorical spot in which to commit suicide. Theres Salma, a dancing girl, who acceptsafter only the briefest protestthat her daughter will follow in her footsteps. And Pestonji, a septuagenarian who dreads his inevitable encounter with the hungry vultures in the tower.

This motley crew of characters represents an array of Bombayites. Some live on the 18th storey, others in tumbledown chawls some are morgue attendants and others ambitious students. What is strange though, is that most of the narrators possess the same disgusted, weary worldview which makes the stories tedious and repetitive.

Many of the stories focus on the strange enigma which the world in general and India in particular categorises as the Parsis. Here, too, Cooper slides into the realm of stereotypes the Parsi widower who sleeps with his gangabai the devoted wife who slaves in the kitchen, her fingers marinated with adoo-lasan the finicky professor of English literature. Still, it is in two storiesThe Fuss About Queens and It Takes Two to Bhagdigthat the book acquires sudden life. Its a real pity that Cooper didnt employ the same humour and tolerance through the book.

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