Six years after journeying with his first, The Last Song of Dusk, Mumbai author Siddharth Dhanvant Shanghvi locates his second body of work back in the city, which he unflinchingly addresses as Bombay.
“It’s because I adore Raj Thackeray,” Shanghvi joked at a reading of his new book, The Lost Flamingoes of Bombay, which was shortlisted for the Man Asian Literary Prize 2008. “People like him changed the name of the city without civic consensus and that is just not kosher. Us artists have to come together to create realities that are true to us," said Shanghvi in conversation with photographer, screenwriter and filmmaker Sooni Taraporevala.
The book epitomises Mumbai’s essence and has at its heart a love story and an exploration of contemporary Indian reality. “Many think this fictional representation of real life as indicating a lack of imagination, but I’ve searched wide for an Indian text that explores people struggling with matters of marriage and love in modern India. Most texts are about much larger isms, but I am writing out of a need and exploring matters personal to me.”
Written over six years, Shanghvi prophesised in a sense acts of moral policing, which is a pressing concern in the country today. The book also alludes to a murder trial, the likeness of which to an infamous trial in Delhi Shanghvi dismissed.
No longer taboo
“It’s a love story with a central character of a woman who is married and still finds it in her to love another man. The book is also manifestly about sex because we are so awkward in talking about something so elemental.
“We should be able to give our kids a vocabulary to talk about the process that brought them into being. I’d like to see this as the opening of a narrative that has never been before,” the 32 year-old expressed.