Bombay Bhel by Ken Doyle is a giveway that I won on Goodreads in February. It turned out to be quite an interesting collection of short stories drawn from daily life in Mumbai when the city was still called Bombay. The protagonists are average people striving to make their often humble livings in the metropolis balancing between modern European life-style and old Indian, above all religious traditions. Many of them are 'makapaos', thus members of a minority whose ancestors came from the Indo-Portuguese city of Goa, with Portuguese names and usually Roman-Catholic creed.
The topics raised are diverse and often grave. For instance, the first story - Aam Papad - shows the strong religious tensions in India between the Muslim and the Hindu population in a very dramatic way not sparing the reader pictures of burnt and looted dwellings, of people having been killed in the assault and of the small Muslim food vendor looking for his parents a day or two later who is beaten up and almost stabbed to death. Also arranged marriages, the acceptance of working married women and rape are themes dealt with in several stories along with the realities of Indian bureaucracy and the issue of curruption.
The author was born and raised in Bombey himself. Having Portuguese as well as Anglo-Indian roots he definitely knows the setting that he described. First-hand experience always is the best source for a writer, especially an emerging one like Ken Doyle. The stories of Bombay Bhel are full of life and captivating. I don’t dare judging the quality of style and language of an English-speaking author since I’m no native speaker of this language, but to me they seem used with the necessary care and precision. At any rate I enjoyed the read.