Book Review | Bombay Wali and Other Stories by Veena Gokhale

Veena Gokhale
Paperback, 217 pages
Publication date:
March 31st 2013
Guernica Editions
Received from publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Twelve stories that provide startling glimpses of contemporary life in Bombay, and elsewhere. An innocuous jazz concert that awakens painful memories for a middle-aged caregiver, a wealthy business woman compelled by the desire to hurt her best friend, a lonely, old woman in a Tokyo apartment who seeks the touch of a baby’s hand. Tales about friendship and repulsion, family ties and freedom; violence, public and private; ambition and uncertainty, alienation and acceptance, growing up and growing old.


“…If you’ve always lived here, it’s no big deal. But if you’re an outsider, you have to work to become a Bombay Wali. Know what I mean? You have to learn about the city. You have to learn about survival…” (p. 30)

I first heard about this collection of short stories on the CBC radio program, “All in a Weekend” when the authour came on to talk to host Sonali Karnick about her book. As soon as I heard what it was about, I became very excited to read it. Luckily I was given a chance to review it.

Bombay Wali and other stories is a short story collection featuring stories about regular people set in 1980s Bombay, India as well as foreign places like Japan and local (to me) places like Toronto. I liked that although the stories are about ordinary people they mostly took place in places that are unfamiliar to me which allowed me to get a glimpse at the daily life and culture that seems so exotic to me.

For the most part my feelings on the stories included this book ranged from loving it to not being very invested or interested in the story. The title story, “Bombay Wali” which means Bombay woman about three young women living in Bombay in the 80s. It was a pretty good read and I’m curious if it was somewhat autobiographical. However it was the short story, “Middle Age Jazz and Blues” that was my all-time favourite story in this collection. As a jazz fan, I really appreciated seeing how Gokhale was able to weave the jazz music performance in the story with the main character’s recollection of her tragic past.

Bombay Wali and other stories is an example of a collection of writing where it appears that the authour writes mostly what she knows, which works very well in this case. The strongest stories in this collection are those that take place in India, as it is here that the writing appeals to all of your senses. A lot of thought is given into the writing of the descriptions of the sights and smells so much that at times you can almost smell all of the wonderful, unusual scents. The only downside to this is there are many terms that may be confusing if you are not familiar with Indian culture. And while there is a glossary at the back, not all the terms are included in the glossary which made it somewhat confusing at times. In spite of that, Bombay Wali and other stories overall was a lovely short story collection that I enjoyed and would recommend to those looking for a good, short read.

If you like this book, you’ll love: Secret Daughter by Shilpi S Gowda

Rating: 3.5 out of 5 Stars

Regardless of how this book came into my possession, the above review consists of my honest opinion of the book and my opinion only.