Narcopolis by Jeet Thayil
“Narcopolis”, set in the opium dens of Bombay has a languorous and dreamy quality appropriate to it’s narcotic theme. Essentially the story of Dimple, a beautiful eunuch who prepares pipes in Rashid’s opium den, the story slides in and out of the following characters whose paths cross hers. From the Hollywood adventures of the angry man, Rumi, to the poignant tale of Mr Lee’s upbringing and flight from Maoist China, these are essentially stories of lives beyond control. As one of the characters puts it: “This is our reality. Anything can happen to anyone at any time.”
These are experiences that can only be subdued with the pipe. But it is the introduction of heroin that begins to destroy their dreamy world. The unravelling of Rashid and Dimple’s world is written with enormous dignity, grace and empathy. And a new India emerges, shiny and bright, but full of the old melancholy.
For all it’s dreaminess and langour, the storytelling in the book has a strong sense of momentum. At the heart of this book are stories love, affection and longing.
I loved this book, I was completely enthralled in it’s world and missed them all once I was done. This is a book I will return to again and again.
Nb. There are some fairly confronting sex scenes in the book- perhaps not for the fainthearted. I wouldn’t give this book to my mum for example.