“Their two banshee wails came together to wax before dying off into the distance.” – Braham Singh
Hey there, readers! I know it’s been long, but I’m back now and this week I was able to get my hands on Bombay Swastika by Braham Singh.
Let us get into the review, shall we?
Bombay Swastika swings from a Nazi Berlin gearing up for its Final Solution, to 1964 Bombay, where Ernst Steiger, a German Jew, accidentally finds himself caught up in the murder of a young tribal, killed amidst allegations of something being stolen from a secure American compound. With the monsoons laying siege on the city, the reader accompanies Ernst past Bombay’s refugee camps and haunted whorehouses; food shortages, textbook mafias, communist protests against American PL 480 Food Aid, and peculiar happenings at India’s nuclear facility; where Dr. Homi J. Bhabha, the nation’s atomic mastermind, gets drawn into a conspiracy hatched in his absence.
This one-of-a-kind thriller unfolds through the eyes of a motley cast-Salim Ali, the South Indian, Muslim engineer and committed Marxist; Bhairavi, the enigmatic and sensual refugee girl; Sethji, the dowry messiah; Tsering Tufan-Homi Bhabha’s Smiling Buddha-dying from radiation exposure; and Andhi Ma, the blind mendicant who sees what we can’t.
Bombay Swastika is an exploration of the dark world of absolute truths.
The word ‘Swastika’, a symbol of spirituality, was twisted into a symbol of hatred by the Nazis as they used it to inculcate widespread rallies across Germany. The author here, used the titled to represent the connection of the Black Swastika in the form of Ernst, a Jew, who lands up in Bombay.
Besides the literal meaning, what is amazing about the title is how sophisticated and catchy it sounds while also managing to remain relevant to the plot of the book.
Title Rating – 5 / 5
Upon first glance, the cover is nearly ordinary. However, it is only on looking closer that it becomes evident how striking the imagery really is. A woman wrapped in a red cloth, with a swastika locket dangling behind her down to her back. To me, it depicted strangulation by a weirdly contorted symbol of well-being.
Cover Rating – 4.5 / 5
“Truth be told, he still didn’t know what to make of his father’s life or his mother’s death..” – Braham Singh
There is no doubt that this book is an outright thriller right from the start. Without having the elements of an action, the adventurous approach to the plot made it seem all the more fast-paced while realistically setting us towards a gripping experience. It isn’t just a story, it’s a movie in words. Bombay has been portrayed in very high detail though set around the 1960s and this provides an insight into India from the past.
“As with most buildings, bulbs were optional and the corridors cast long shadows.” – Braham Singh
The author has a very strong sense of language and it was nearly impossible to find any errors within the book. That being said, the diction and the vocabulary seemed a little too overpowering at times, making it a little difficult to stick to the scene. In some places, however, this seemed necessary. The author did a fantastic job in connecting loose ends and finishing off the story on a sweet note.
“A beauty of sorts crept into the night and a feeble moon looked down at India.” – Braham Singh
There is such keen characterization in the novel that one almost misses to focus of the story. Each character has been etched with such depth and glory that it easily dominates the plot. This, in fact, is a good thing because it ensures that the novel sticks with you for long afterward the reading is done.
Overall, it is a highly engaging and an enjoyable read.
Plot Rating – 4 / 5
- The writing style
- The Characters
- The plot
- A more realistic ending
- Less profanity
Overall Rating: 4.5 / 5
Verdict: Definitely Worth Every Penny!
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