Leaving the smoky opium dens of Bombay. Reluctantly.


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.

How I picture Dimple

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.

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Whisked away to a Bombay Opium Den of the 70’s


Have started reading Narcopolis. It has sucked me in like a Bombay opium pipe- loving it so far.
I’m finding it very visual.
So it sent me on a search for some imagery around the topic.
An incredibly romanticised topic, visually. I think the book may be about to hit me with the ugly side…

“She was about twenty-five then and she had a habit in those days of shaking the hair into her eyes and smiling for no reason at all, a sweet smile as I remember, with no hint of the changes that would overtake her.”
But for now, some pretty pictures!

Source: George Barbier – Art Deco Fashion Illustration courtesy of Steven Poke

Dita von Teese in her Opium Den. Source: Teas-O-Rama

Have you read the book?
please no spoilers ; )