“Listen,” he said. “I want to tell you a story.”
In Love and longing in Bombay, we are introduced into another society that depends on its oral culture to survive. Inside one story are layers and layers of other stories/histories/pasts/presents that are so intertwined that they blossom into more than just stories, but love and longing. Subramaniam is bursting with his stories to the point that, in “Artha,” one story even jumps into another story as soon as he begins the telling. Within that story, you truly feel how alive India is with all of its people and activity and the underbelly of corruption and the side notes of art and beauty. At first, I had no idea that Iqbal lived alone because he was constantly surrounded by Sandhya and her son and ex-husband, her mother, and of course—Rajesh. In the moments where he was alone, I was more afraid for Iqbal than when he was in tasered or captive in the back of a van. Being alone seemed like a terrible fate in a city that was so crowded and bustling that it took an hour or longer just to travel across town.
Loyola is not overpopulated, like Bombay. And yet, somehow, I find myself often seeking desperately for moments of solitude and silence. I thought that quiet was part of what humans needed to survive—like food, air, and water. However, reading these stories, I realize that there is something else that humans need and that is other humans. This hustle and bustle is like blood through our veins. People feed us and quench our thirst when we are desperately seeking meaning. It is when we find these people who share in our spaces and our lives that we begin to share our stories. Often, I tell myself to shut up because my friends at home are sick of hearing about my roommates and friends at school. When I am at school, I tell myself to shut up because my roommates are sick of hearing stories about my friends from home. Sometimes, I can’t help it. These stories are my life. Half of me is hidden from the people I am with because they have never experienced me in my other home.
As Love and longing in Bombay shows, your stories do not need to be a self-portrait to be revealing. The stories we remember and choose to retell are the ones that are most close to our own stories—the stories that are closest to home. In these five stories (“Artha” in particular), the characters are all experiencing both love and longing to a certain degree. Poor Iqbal is in love but he has lost the person whom he loves and his longing is what propels the entire story forward. Similarly, the things and the people I love are what keep me motivated each and every day. More importantly, it is the need to constantly create new stories that drives us all to come out of our quiet places, venturing out into the crowded streets of Bombay.