The stories of the people (customers, workers, business partners) who frequent Rashid's, the best opium den in Bombay. They include Dimple, a hijra, who works as a prostitute before joining Rashid's as someone who prepares the pipes, the price of her entry being two antique Chinese opium pipes bequeathed to her by Mr Lee, a fugitive from Maoist China. The somewhat unstructured narrative, sometimes seemingly as chaotic as the city, explores through its characters the grubby underbelly of old Bombay.
Shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize in 2012
The narrative structure is odd. It starts with the narrator Dom and then dfrifts away from him to head-hop, telling the story from the point of view of whoever is most relevant, a little like the meandering thoughts of a drug user, perhaps, or like the narrative in Moby-Dick.
Some memorable moments:
- "He spoke from deep inside a nod." (1.3)
- "Christ, Bengali said, from the Sanskrit ghrei, to rub, which in Greek became Christos, the anointed." (1.3)
- "Shuklaji Street was a fever-grid of rooms, boom-boom rooms, family rooms, god rooms, secret rooms that contracted in the daytime and expanded at night." (3.1)
- "Only the uneducated set so much stock by education." (3.3)
- "Dreams leak from head to head: they travel between those who face in the same direction, that is to say lovers, and those who share the bonds of intoxication and death." (3.8)
May 2021; 292 pages