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Bombay Balchão, journalist Jane Borges’ debut work of fiction, is a walk through the lives of the inhabitants of Cavel, a small Catholic community in South Mumbai. While it is through protagonist Michael Coutino that the author chooses to drive her narrative, there are several others with their own quirks that make them just as or perhaps even more memorable.
The author has woven in true incidents from the city’s past, the characters having developed from her own identity as someone who grew up in a Catholic community in the city. The narrative swings between several years of the characters’ lives as they evolve, or in some cases, simply fail to grow up at all.
Bombay Balchao is also a helpful guide to understanding the cultural roots of the Goan, Mangalorean and East Indian communities in Mumbai without generalising to broadly term all Catholic English speaking Indians as Goans. Borges succeeds in bringing to life characters with dialects that are distinct to their communities, often a mishmash of English, Konkani and Hindi. In that sense, Bombay Balchao is in complete contrast to Mafia Queens of Mumbai, the non-fiction novel Borges co-wrote with Hussain Zaidi based on true crime stories of women from Mumbai’s underbelly.
Excerpted from the review by Sajini Sahadevan
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