read for: south asian challenge and TBR challenge
*may contain spoilers*
Bombay is awake.
Mehernosh Kanga, son of prominent Parsi lawyer Jimmy Kanga, is getting married today. Mehernosh has recently graduated from Oxford with his own law degree, but instead of choosing to practice in England or being lured away by the glamour of America, he has chosen to return to the city of his birth and join his father's firm in Bombay. The wedding of Mehernosh acts as an excuse for the residents of Wadia Baug, Jimmy and Zarin Kanga's own home, to gather and reflect on their lives together: the disintegrating marriage of Rusi and Coombi, the tragic love stories of Soli and Tehmi, the joy the group finds in their friendships with one another, and their ever changing relationship with the city of Bombay.
This was a surprisingly quick read about the lives of a particular Parsi community living in Bombay. The Parsis are an ethnic minority in India, a people descended from Persian immigrants who fled Muslim persecution during the 10th century. Much of their culture and how it differs from ethnic Indians, specifically their Zoroastrian religion, adds to their stories, their relationships with each other, and even more their relationship with Bombay. That being said, Parsi culture and religion was well integrated into the story without becoming overwhelmingly expository.
While certain characters are mentioned and seen throughout the entire book, each chapter is seen through the eyes of someone different. Each character gets their own story told, their triumphs and losses, how they became the men and women they are today. This is both good and bad; it's good in that each character has their own unique story to tell and it's good to see how the others fit into their story, but also bad because, for example, I really didn't like Coombi and didn't want to hear her story. Thankfully she was the only character I really didn't like. I had some issues with Tehmi, too, but that was a little different. While I liked the character of Tehmi, I didn't like how her story turned out. Every other character seemed so deeply rooted in reality that her breath problem after the death of Cyrus seemed out of place. It was too bizarre.
There wasn't too much overt description of the city of Bombay, no paragraphs of imagery describing streets and buildings, and yet Bombay itself became almost a character in its own right. Bombay changed with the times just as Rusi or Soli or Dosamai did, and its specific role in history had just as strong an effect on certain people as their neighbors. These stories might have turned out quite differently had they not occurred in Bombay.