Pinky Mittal grew up in the home of her maternal grandmother Maji, after the death of her mother Yamuna during the violence surrounding the partition of India. Shortly before infant Pinky’s joined the Mittal household, her Aunt Savita lost her infant daughter in a freak accident. The arrival of Pinky is a constant reminder to Savita of what she lost, and she falls more and more into a world of superstitions and secret charms, convinced her daughter’s death was not an accidental drowning but due to wicked spirits. She demands that the children’s bathroom be bolted at dusk in case the evil still lurks within.
Thirteen years later, Pinky knows she’s despised by her aunt but idolizes her older cousin Nimish, longing for him as young women long for pop or film stars. Everything changes one stifling summer evening when Pinky awakes and discovers Nimish’s secret relationship with Lovely, the beautiful next-door neighbour. In a fit of despair, Pinky unbolts the bathroom door and unleashes the ghosts within. As monsoons batter Bombay, the ghosts unleash chaos on the family and long held secrets are exposed.
Shilpa Agarwal’s debut novel Haunting Bombay is the richly detailed story of a family in crisis. Three generations of the Mittal family live together in a bungalow in 1960s Bombay. Maji, the matriarch, lives by the daily rituals which have governed her life for decades. Savita, slave to her superstitions, is in constant competition with her friends for the “Most-Number-One-First-Class-Life.” Jaginder, Maji’s son, has retreated into an alcoholic stupor rather than face the loss of his daughter.
Agarwal’s ghosts are vengeful spirits, violently exacting payment for the wrongs perpetrated upon them in life. The Mittal family, by refusing to face the tragedy in their midst, have kept Chakori’s sprit from the afterlife and have existed in a purgatory of their own making. And hidden within Haunting Bombay are deeper secrets, ones which Agarwal slowly unfurls one by one and ones that help readers understand the mysteries of this ancient culture.
Publisher: Soho Press
Publication Date: April 1, 2009
Author Website: shilpaagarwal.com
tags: books book reviews fiction Shilpa Agarwal