In "Bombay Wali and other stories," Montreal writer Veena Gokhale brings contemporary Bombay to life by writing about a side of the city that outsiders rarely hear about — the lives of the professional middle class.
Gokhale's collection of 12 short stories is mainly set in Bombay — also known as Mumbai — and it tells tales as diverse as the city.
One story centres around a wealthy business woman compelled by the desire to hurt her best friend, and another tells of a woman reflecting on violence as a riot rages outside her home.
Gokhale says she wants to change the way Mumbai is often depicted in foreign media, with only the extremes of Bollywood or slums shown, without capturing the complexity of life in the city with a population of 20.5 million.
“I think for me, Bombay is diversity,” Gokhale told All in a Weekend's Sonali Karnick. “I think that is reflected in my books because you have all sorts of people from different ethnic groups… and classes.”
Gokhale grew up in India and identifies as a “Bombai wali” — a woman from Mumbai.
She says she started writing when she was eight years old and later worked as a journalist in the 1980s before moving to Canada where she became a novelist.
“As a journalist, I traversed all these worlds and met all these diverse characters,” she says.
Though Gokhale now lives in Montreal with her husband and extended family, she still writes about her roots in Mumbai.
“That’s why India is so mind-boggling: it is so full of these contrasts and contradictions all the time,” she says. “You have to laugh to survive Bombay.”
Gokhale will be part of the three-day English Symposium at Vanier College, where she will speak on the Writing Experiences of the Diaspora panel on Wednesday, Oct. 30 at 2 p.m.