- Tossed, by a new flood
June 29, 2013
This bookstore boasts a clientele that once included Jawaharlal Nehru, Rajendra Prasad, Yashwantrao Chavan and CV Raman.
- In here, it's always story time
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Dayanita Singh launched an informal project on Facebook by asking her fellow photographers to document India's independent bookstores.
- Specialise to succeed
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Despite its sudden closure in 2006, Lotus Books lives on in dog-eared snippets of memory among a certain section of Mumbai readers.
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Singh is king
Inspector Singh has quite a track record. The Singapore-based Sardarji with the bulging paunch and sweaty underarms has solved cases in five different countries. Much to the chagrin of his unappreciative and unimaginative boss, Superintendent Chen.
In Malaysia, where he has been sent to solve the murder of a wealthy industrialist and ensure justice for the man's beautiful Singaporean wife, he has to tangle with environmental activists, grumpy Malaysian policemen and lethal traffic. In Bali, where he has been sent to help investigate the 2002 bombing, he finds himself looking into not only Islamic terrorists but a group of unsavoury expats as well. In Cambodia, where he has been sent as an observer to the war crime tribunal in Phnom Penh, he's sucked into an ugly murder case. And occasionally-when the unsolved murders become too embarrassing-his superiors even permit him to solve cases in Singapore.
Through all these life-threatening experiences, the portly, puffing Sikh has only become fatter and more pessimistic. So when the redoubtable Mrs Singh insists that her convalescing husband accompany her to Mumbai for a family wedding he gives in with poor grace. After all, Inspector Singh is very clear about his likes and dislikes. He likes cigarettes;spicy, calorific curries;long afternoon naps;and successful investigations. He dislikes his colleagues in the Singapore police force;boring functions;his wife's family;and most of all, functions involving his wife's family.
Except that the minute the Singhs land in Mumbai, they find that this wedding is veering sharply from any conventional script. The bride-a pretty, determined scientist named Ashu Kauris missing. Her brothers are behaving strangely, her mother is acutely worried, and her powerful industrialist grandfather is so determined to find her that he asks Inspector Singh for help. Unable to refuse the anxious Tara Baba, the Sikh policeman reluctantly begins to look into the disappearance. Then a burnt body is found and identified as Ashu Kaur.
The Mumbai police decide that Ashu Kaur killed herself because she couldn't go through with the arranged marriage to the nondescript MBA that her grandfather had chosen. Except that all those who knew her best refuse to believe that the feisty young woman would ever kill herself. And so once again Inspector Singh finds himself investigating a mysterious death in an unfamiliar city.
Meanwhile, in the teeming slum next to the factory where Ashu worked, strange happenings are afoot. Rats have started dancing, and many inhabitants are developing a peculiar illness. Also, the police are concerned because Ashu's older brother-and the heir to the Tara Baba empire-seems to be keeping undesirable company.
Admittedly, Shamini Flint's knowledge of Mumbai is superficial. After all, the writer who grew up in Malaysia and now lives in Singapore is - like her quick-thinking detective - a tourist in India. Even so, the fifth Inspector Singh mystery is an entertaining, engaging jaunt through the high-rises and tarpaulin shanties of Mumbai. And Inspector Singh is an observant, perceptive guide.
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