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Bombay Gardens

eBook (PDF), 460 Pages
(5 Ratings)
Price: $16.57
The story of smalltime Ugandan Indian landlord Naranbhai, who likes to think big-big -- big house, big business schemes, two wives -- unfolds when two strangers, who share a childhood fairy tale, meet thirty years after the Asian Expulsion
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  • By Jameela Siddiqi
    Jan 31, 2012
    Bombay Gardens has a multiple layer of plots that add to the richness of the book……….. issues of identity and of belonging are at the heart of Siddiqi’s novel says Debjani Chatterjee Jameela Siddiqi’s name will be a familiar one to readers of Confluence because of her informative articles on the music of the Indian sub-continent. She has also worked as a television journalist and radio broadcaster, and translated poetry from Urdu and Hindi. But many will be unaware that she is also an interesting fiction writer; her debut novel some five years ago, The Feast of the Nine Virgins, from Bogle-L’Ouverture Press, did not make many ripples in the UK though it was occasionally picked up in post-colonial Literature courses in the US and elsewhere. But undaunted, Siddiqi has now published a second novel, Bombay Gardens, where she employs many of her earlier elements of magic realism and post-modernism, and does so now with greater assurance and flair. And with Bombay Gardens she has now taken... More > charge of both the publication and promotion of this new work – the book is available from Lulu.com in the USA, described as a “print-on-demand marketplace for digital do-it-yourselfers”. This is the first publication that I have seen from Lulu Books, and I must say that it is a beautiful and substantial book - both in content and in production. A few printing errors have crept in, but the fonts used are very clear, large and readable. Siddiqi uses two different fonts to differentiate between the fairytale that introduces the book and the other plots that unfold. Jameela Siddiqi was born in Kenya, grew up in Uganda and moved to Britain in 1972 as a refugee. Her East African childhood, experience of migration from Idi Amin’s Uganda, and lifelong interest in Bollywood and passion for music, all colour her novels. And Siddiqi’s novels are certainly colourful with a host of engaging characters. There is the petty African Gujerati landlord, Naranbhai, who believes: “One needs vision. One must see big-big. And then have the courage to do big-big work.” He is the proprietor of “BOMBAY GARDENS - residences for decent peoples only - Rats not allowed”. Then there is a fairytale princess who only manages to sleep when she hears the melody played by the handsome musician Rangeelay Khan. There is also the white-robed mystic, Hazari Amrohavalla, “Saver of Souls, Menders of Hearts”. And the toothless matchmaker - and many more. Many of Siddiqi’s characters conjure up a bygone era of Indians in East Africa. Her novel captures the speech of Indians in Uganda and this enlivens her dialogue. Here, for instance, is Kamini Masi’s belligerent comment: What for? Our daughter is not like a mirror in a barber’s shop to be gazed at by every aandu-paandu. All of a sudden, you’re going to marry her or what, that we have to put her on show for you? Her use of language is indeed interesting. The narrator’s voice is in a chatty and confiding conversational style and the book contains a lot of colourful dialogue. One characteristic of Indian English that Siddiqi employs to comic effect in her dialogue is the use of words with double-barrelled repetitious sound, eg “aandu-paandu” in the quotation above. Other examples are: “confession-punfession”, “hanky-panky”, “love-shove”, “bhoot-shoot”, “rhyme-shyme” and “soul-shoal”. Quaint superstitions and customs add an exotic touch. The widow Nalini, for instance, is anxious to check if a visitor’s feet point backwards. “Their feet always point backwards if they are not of this world”, she explains. When people comment on the happiness of the twins Mohini and Sohini, she waves her arms around their heads and cracks her knuckles over her temples “in an effort to ward off evil.” Other characters state that when “crows go caw-caw on the roof, it means visitors.” There is also mention of ancient Indian customs of marriage to inanimate objects such as clay pots and trees. Other marriage customs too have prominence, such as the bride’s ritual first visit back to her parental home. A social anthropologist would love this book! Marriage, often disastrous, and family relationships - one way or another - play a very large role in this book. Naranbhai is a polygamist who has two wives and a mad daughter. He almost thrives on the constant bickering in his household. Naranbhai was admiring himself in front of the mirror for the hundredth time, when he became aware of raised voices and screaming, abruptly brought to an end by the Mad Girl’s song. He smiled to himself. The women were at loggerheads again. Wonderful! Things were back to normal. In an ever-changing world it is always reassuring to find that some things always remain the same. The book’s characters belong to different faiths and ethnic groupings. A Hindu landlord has a Muslim tenant; a black African Muslim Quran instructress brings up an Indian Hindu child; a Goan Christian steals iron kitchen tongs from a Hindu neighbour to fulfil the condition for an old Indian remedy for her children’s illnesses, and the victim readily forgives her because: “She respected superstition and respected Mrs D’Sa for agreeing to enact an old Hindu custom in spite of being a Roman Catholic. She was also touched by the fact that whatever the woman had done, she had done for her child.” A Gujarati character, Mrs Naranbhai, talks to Mrs D’Sa in “a mixture of kitchen Swahili laced with basic English”. It all builds up a picture of a complex multi-racial, multi-lingual and multi-faith community in East Africa, with people rubbing along together - on the whole, quite harmoniously. Apart from the large canvas of characters, Bombay Gardens has a multiple layer of plots that add to the richness of the book, but require the reader to stay alert. Stories set at different times, in Africa and in England, interweave and connect. In the background there is also a traditional Indian fairytale that manages to give the book a timeless quality. Siddiqi uses songs - one in particular - and a story, as devices to thread through the various narratives and to tie them together. As in many classic plots, coincidence plays a strong part in this comic novel and is also a means of connecting characters and plots. Issues of identity and of belonging are at the heart of Siddiqi’s novel. Just occasionally one comes across a passage that is too verbose and overwritten. Here, for instance, are the thoughts of the narrator: I had always imagined that the former colonial powers were generous in the extreme in promoting and bringing to light materials about African and Asian cultures that wouldn’t otherwise have seen the light of day. But I’m forgetting something vital here. The [sic] have classified us as the “other” as though their culture were the norm and everything else, a deviation. They acknowledge the “other” - very much so - but the “other” has to fit in with their idea of what it is to be “other.” Years of systematic undermining of our cultures has led to us now being put in a showcase - on full view, brought to you by courtesy of this, that or the other do-gooding institute of culture and refinement. And there’s a very clear idea about what is, and isn’t “Indian,” as there is of what is, and isn’t, African. If it’s a little Indian and a little African, then there’s no convenient cubby-hole. There was, as yet, little or no recognition for Indian writers who write about the experience of being Indian in Africa. White European or American authors who had put in a brief spell as VSO or Peace Corps, were considered better qualified to comment on the plight of the African-Indians. I had always thought of the Indians of my country as businessmen, or industrialists and, mostly, shopkeepers. I never thought some of them might go on to be writers! Siddiqi’s own views seem to have intruded here. But for the most part Bombay Gardens is a charming and very readable book that manages to carry important issues lightly. It will please her admirers and win her new readers. Debjani Chatterjee was born in Delhi, lives in Sheffield and is an award-winning poet, editor and children’s writer. She is a Royal Literary Fund Fellow, Chair of the National Association of Writers in Education, Patron of Survivors’ Poetry and Founder of Sahitya Press. Web: http://DebjaniChatterjee.mysite.wanadoo-members.co.uk Jameela Siddiqi, Bombay Gardens (Lulu Books, Lulu Enterprises, 860 Aviation Parkway, Suite 300, Morrisville, NC 27560, USA; www.lulu.com 2006), 460 pages, ISBN 978 1 4116 9890 1< Less
  • By Debjani Chatterjee
    Oct 15, 2009
    "BOMBAY GARDENS - Charming and readable..." Her earlier novel, "The Feast of the Nine Virgins", (Bogle L'Ouverture Press, 2001) did not make many ripplies in the UK though it was picked up in post-colonial literature courses in the US and elsewhere. Undaunted, Siddiqi has now published a second novel, "Bombay Gardens", where she employs many of her earlier elements of magic realism and post-modernism and does so now with greater assurance and flair. Her East African childhood, experience of migration from idi Amin's Uganda and life-long interest in Bollywood and passion for music, all colour her novels. Bombay Gardens features a host of engaging characters including the petty African-Gujerati landlord, Naranbhai who believes: "One needs vision. One must see big-big.." He is the proprietor of BOMBAY GARDNES -- residences for decent peoples only -- Rats Not Allowed. Then there is a fairytale princess who only manages to sleep when she hears the... More > melody played by the handsome musicians Rangeelay Khan. There is also the white-robed mystic Hazari Baba, "Saver of Souls, Mender of Hearts." And the toothless matchmater -- and many more. Many of Siddiqi's characters conjure up a bygone era of Indians in East Africa. The novel also captures the speech of Indians in uganda and this enlivens her dialogue. Here, for instance, is Kamini Masi's belligerent comment: "What for? Our daughter is not like a mirror in a barber's shop to be gazed at by every aandu-paandu. All of a sudden you're goint to marry her or what, that we have to put her on show for you?" Quaint superstitions and customs add an exotic touch. The widow Nalini, for instance, is anxious to check if a visitor's feet point backwards: "Their feet always point backwards if they are not of this world," she explains. When people comment on the [post-marital] happiness of the twins Mohini and Sohini, she waves her arms around their heads and cracks her knuckles over her tamples "in an effort to ward off evil". Other characters state that when "crows go caw-caw on the roof, it means visitors." There is also mention of ancient Indian customs of marriage to inanimate objects such as clay pots and tres. Marriage, often disastrous and family relationships, play a very large role in this book. Naranbhai is a polygamist who has two wives and a mad daughter. He almost thrives on the constant bickering in his household. Bombay Gardens is a charming and very readable book that manages to carry important issues lightly. It will please Siddiqi's admirers and win her new readers. (Extract from Debjani Chatterjee's review of Bombay Gardens, first published in CONFLUENCE, July-August 2006.< Less
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Product Details

Publisher
Jameela Siddiqi
Published
September 30, 2011
Language
English
Pages
460
File Format
PDF
File Size
1.29 MB

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