Review: Bloodline Bandra

BY Guest Reviewer IN B, General Fiction NO COMMENTS YET

By Godfrey Joseph Pereira. Grade: B

BloodLine Bandra

David Cabral is a journalist, and also one of the original peepils: an East Indian from Pali Village. The village is a world unto itself, and the villagers such notables as Salt Peter, Freddy Fakir, Basco Big Stomach, Carla Four Eyes, Lorna Leg Spread, Spunkless Joe and Small Tree Big Fruit. It is a world relatively untroubled by the rapid changes around it, mostly because its inhabitants just ask themselves, ‘My fadder wot going?’ David, spurred by the sight of childhood friends who have made it big abroad, manages to shake off the stupor of his comfortable life and heads to New York for his piece of the American Dream pie. There, he finds himself a slave: unable to scrape together enough money to return to India, nor able to quit because it would render his stay illegal. There also, he meets and falls in love with Japanese cello student Hatsumi Nakamura – a difficult love, bound by culture and circumstances. All the while, Pali Village beckons David home. Bloodline Bandra captures with flair and wit the flavourful language of the East Indians, life in the tight-knit community of Pali Village and a way of life that’s dying out. It is a riveting tale of love and loss, of home and homelessness that will linger on long after the book is read and put away.

As the title suggests , the book is about the life of a west-coast, catholic, ambiguously Portuguese descent, journalist’s struggle. The cover of the book also mirrors the Sylvan settings of coastal village, coconut palms, tiled-roof houses with pigs strolling about.

It is exactly in this sleepy ambiance the story of David Cabral enfolds. The first couple of chapters gives you a dose of Goan, Portuguese-influenced way of life, replete with characters like Salt Peter, Little tree Big Fruit (petite buxom woman), Harry Homo, speaking the quaint English riddled with ‘bugger’ and ending with ‘man’.

David is clearly frustrated with the listless, uneventful life in Pali village, while his peers boast of success stories made while making a living abroad. He decided to move to the promised land of Big Apple, New York city, and has a tryst with destiny.

David’s travails begin the moment he steps foot in NYC and that is when the book becomes engaging. The stark account of his job in the office-cum-home of a weekly newspaper on the Fifth Avenue is movingly narrated. The excruciating struggle for obtaining a legitimate work permit, the brutal exploitation of immigrant labor is told in great detail. David’s helplessness at not being able to travel home to be at his mother’s death bed is heart rending.

David finds solace in a Japanese cello artist. Through the Japanese girl with an angelic disposition, the author gives a glimpse of the oriental culture and mores. David also finds company in a couple of tramps on NY streets who have the uncanny ability to recite Sanskrit slokas. One of the tramp turns out to be a one-time scientist of repute but David’s moments with these tramps are abstract and weigh down the narrative.

The book brings out the stark contrast of life in a Goan-fishing village and the metropolitan New York City. The author paints capitalist American  life as predatory and dark and the simple charms of the coastal village is romanticized. Though not a page turner by any standard, it does offer interesting juxtapositions of the urban-rural divide.

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