Murzban F Shroff
There is no middle business in
In just one month’s time since the publication of Breathless in Bombay, Shroff is hogging the limelight (critical acclaims; in best-seller lists). What is surprising is that he achieved this feat in his debut work (that too a collection of short stories, which normally gets a step-motherly treatment). And the man himself is still an almost-invisible character (except some souls in advertising, his bread and butter) in a city where only the glitzy and glamorous count.
And here is where Shroff scores. He writes about the poorest of the poor, the most ordinary of the ordinary denizens of the
The period Shroff retells of
Rushdie was never wrong; ditto Mistry; and not even Mehta (his investigative journalistic account published was just a few years ago). But, Bombay is on a constant rollercoaster ride (what you see today, you will not see twenty-four hours later) and even the lower middle-class citizens are reaping the benefits. But is it the real
Shroff, like most Parsi gentlemen, is basically a philanthropist, if not in deed at least in mind. This philanthropy is personified in almost all his stories (and I hope in the next two books he is planning soon).
Shroff’s language is divine. Savour two. In The Maalishwalla: “Bheem Singh felt blessed and heavenly, holding his bride while she slept… He did not move, even when he felt a mosquito sit on his naked arm, even when he felt a piercing prick and a burning scratchiness thereafter.” And in A Different Bhel: “Hilda looked at her friends and, managing a smile, said, ‘Know what? I think I will try a sweet bhel today. I will try a different kind of chutney. The sweet date chutney. Then, perhaps, I will have a new taste to imagine and remember’.”
Shroff’s stories may not have an O Henry-type sting-in-the-tail ending; they do leave so much to imagine, and savour with relish. Remarkable, nonetheless, is the language used: the unique, Bombaiyya slang: tapori, if you like; bindaas, if you are in a care-free and ebullient mood. Ekdum.
The biblical simplicity is so evident in the stories that one is tended to believe Shroff dons a Christ-like robe, that of an evangelist, a rescuer and a chronicler of the downtrodden. Shroff’s is not an NGO work; though it might, for many, look like: most of the stories read like as-told-to journalistic pieces. Is it a bane or a boon to the overall nature of the works in question, (and to his further expeditions in literature and other writing)? Well, one is not sure about.
One of the best works of fiction that has emerged from