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Talking Location With author Smita Bhattacharya

8th April 2018

#TalkingLocationWith… author Smita Bhattacharya, who takes her readers to Bandra, the gem at the heart of Mumbai.

Smita Bhattacharya

Sunrise at Bandra Reclamation (with a copy of the book in situ!)

Dead to Them by Smita Bhattacharya is a psychological thriller novel set in the Indian metropole of Mumbai. The city forms an intrinsic backdrop to every chapter; the diversity, the unique local beliefs and dialects, the relentless traffic, the exasperating heat and the torrential rains, the typical daily rigor: it’s all woven in there. And then, in all that, is the mention of the tiny gem that’s Bandra—the queen of Mumbai’s suburbs—where the stereotypical Indian contrasts of the opulent and the decaying, the migrant and the nouveau riche, the hip and the traditional stand out more starkly than anywhere else in the city. This is also where the author lives.

The book’s plot is of a young, missing woman, Moira Madhwa, for whom no one wants to look. Because she is the keeper of devastating secrets—secrets that could wreck peoples’ lives if they were ever to get out. Eventually her friends and colleagues start looking for her, even though secretly they do not want her found. As days roll by, one by one, skeletons tumble out of closets and each of her friends looks equally guilty. But did one among them hate her enough to go the distance? A nail-biting, psychological suspense thriller, Dead to Them weaves a web of deception, lies, and paranoia in the city of Mumbai, where survival flirts with existence every day, in more ways than one.

Bandra is diverse, dynamic and thriving. Something new is happening there every hour, in every street. But it’s also cosmopolitan, and chaotic, and in its very noisy squalor, people are forever looking for peace. And the best time to find it is at sunrise every morning, the only time when there really is any semblance of calm in an otherwise frenzied city.

There are plenty of places to catch the sunrise in all its glory in Bandra—Carter Road, Bandstand, Bandra Fort—but my favorite is at Reclamation. The stretch is relatively less crowded and a great place to sit with a cup of chai and in deep contemplation. It’s also a worthy vantage point to people-watch—flirty couples hiding from the family eye, the middle-aged health conscious, old gossip groups, serious runners, and those who’ve come to steal a few seconds of elusive calm, like me.

From Reclamation I usually walk down to Mt Carmel Road, and then to Chapel Road and Ranwar village. The parallel set of roads that connect Bandra Reclamation to Hill Road are decrepitly gorgeous and while they do not form a part of Dead to Them (but do of my next novel), walking through these heritage villages form an indelible and highly anticipated part of our Bandra lives.

Smita Bhattacharya

Mural by Bollywood Art Project or B.A.P, on Chapel Road

Ranwar Village, in particular, dates back to the early eighteenth century. Many of the houses here are centuries old, built in the typical Indo-Portuguese-Colonial style with large wooden porches, external staircases, pointed roofs, and expansive balconies. And as you walk in its narrow winding lanes, you’ll find a slice of old town sandwiched in new: people conversing across verandahs, women combing their hair whilst lamenting about the traffic below in their typical Bandra English, men gathering around for a cup of tea and idle chatter, home shops selling bombil pickle or Goan Pork sorpotel, tiny lamps and fairy doilies on rusty grilled windows: it’s all quite magical.

Old competes with older at Chapel Road

My typical feel-good Sunday comprises of walking past Chapel Road, through Veronica Road or Waroda Road, on to Mehboob Studio and finish at the centuries old St Andrews Church for the morning mass.

The very Irani Good Luck Café

Post the Sunday walk, I’m usually ravished and I pack in a bun maska-chai (sweet butter bread and tea) at Good Luck café or walk back to partake in a sumptuous continental breakfast at Candies, another popular Bandra café (which I also thank in the book: I’ve written in here for hours!). References to popular Bandra eateries and pubs are many in Dead to Them, because Bandra happens to be the preferred hangout place of most Mumbaikars today and so also for Moira and her friends.

The very Portuguese café Candies

Of course, it’s not all hunky dory, not all beauty and charm. To the foreign eye, the dirt, the squalor, the migrant poverty stands out in deep and uncomfortable contrast to the Bollywood glitz (many, many Indian movie actors live in Bandra), the middle class glamour, the yoga-Pilates studios, the plush pubs, the artsy and hippie crowds. But in Bandra, we try and embrace life in all its vagaries, occasionally attempting to enhance it but in the very least, trying to love it best we can.

Thanks you to Smita for highlighting this particular suburb in Mumbai and sharing with the detail of local life.

Smita Bhattacharya is an author based out of Mumbai. She has a particular soft spot for psychological thriller novels and TV series. And it’s not even funny how much she loves to travel—an incurable affliction, a curse for her employers. Her latest novel, Dead to Them, was released in January 2018 and is currently garnering rave reviews. Her other two books, He Knew a Firefly and Vengeful, have ranked among the top 100 Asian Literature & Fiction on Amazon. You can follow the author on Twitter and connect via her websiteHer book is available through the TripFiction website

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Comments

  1. User: Geeta

    Posted on: 08/04/2018 at 12:31 pm

    Smita you have so beautifully captured the essence of bandra. Definitely one of my favourite suburbs in Mumbai…and after reading the lovely article it just makes me go to each of these places once again!!

    Comment

    1 Comment

    • User: Smita Bhattacharya

      Posted on: 20/09/2018 at 1:11 pm

      Thank you, Geeta. Bandra is indeed super lovely. So much to be discovered everyday!

      Comment

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