Mothers Lovers and other strangers - Bhaichand Patel

Mothers Lovers and other strangers – Bhaichand Patel

There are many ways this review can be twisted and turned. I can easily say that despite the title of the book, it is an engrossing murder mystery where Inspector Waghle travels far north for the sake of unravelling the truth that was simply trying its best to get erased. But no, the book isn’t about Jagatram or where he came from… though his role does meander through the life of the main protagonist.

Is the book then trying to make an impactful social statement by taking us to Kaloni, a small village, and letting us peep into the way the happy and satisfied life of a poor potter terminates into leprosy, beggary, and a caring wife who finally removes ‘the gold bangles her father had given her, which she had not taken off since her wedding, she wrapped them in a piece of cloth and put them in the steel trunk. She made a bundle of some of her clothes and then, swiftly and silently, walked out the door.’ No the book isn’t about that loving potter who ‘always returns home with something for his children, and if sales were disappointing, he would forgo his midday meal and use the money to buy the gulab jamuns they loved; on better days he visited the toy seller or the cloth merchants.’

Do we go with the premise that because life in Bombay is graphically described, the author is surely trying to profile a big city through the eyes of a small boy who has run away from a small village in North India. Well, I did love the way Bhaichand Patel coaxes his prose to seem so Dickensian at times and then suddenly allows the E L James in him to jauntily describe the steamy relationships that people connected with films seem to be seeped in. No wonder then that we find Ravi, the protagonist of the book, is forever going upwards holding the hands of any opportunity that comes his way… and leaving past relationships behind, though not forgotten. After all, he is the one who has…

…enjoyed the luxuries and the comforts, and the lessons he learnt from Sharmaji had served him well. He had borne the old man’s caresses in return, but his fantasies always involved women. He was ready to move on.

But he the same boy who the reader commiserates with as he enters Bombay:

Soon the train was making its way through rows and rows of shanties. When it halted a minute for a signal to turn green, Ravi saw a young boy knee-deep in muck, poking a stick at a hairy black pig. The boy could not have been more than ten yards from the tracks. He stopped and looked up at the train. He seemed to be around Ravi’s age, but his face looked much older. Ravi caught his eye and felt the boy’s desolate and hopeless gaze sear right through him. He turned away. For a moment, he thought perhaps coming to Bombay had been a mistake. Then he saw the high-rises – first of Borivali, then Malad and Bandra – come up. This was more like the Bombay he had imagined.

Ravi is the one who the reader will love at any stage of this book… the small happy boy in Kaloni, the uncertain one when his friends move away because his father has leprosy, and the confused one when Radha, his mother leaves them:

Ravi stayed by the door for some time. Then he turned and saw his father sitting up on the bed.
‘Go back to sleep, my son,’ Mahesh said softly.
‘Where has Ma gone?’
‘Your mother is a whore,’ his father replied.

But no, this book isn’t about exploring the subliminal world of a child who has had a tumultuous past either. The back cover of the book informs us that this book is ‘a tale of a young man’s journey from poverty to privilege, and of memories of a lost childhood that continues to haunt even the most intrepid traveller.’ Well, to some extent, yes, the book is indeed more about one strange journey that insists on picking up and including every possible experience that a mortal might want to have… and no, before you say that everyone of us would analyse his life in a similar vein, no, this life is not like the life you could ever have. Not every reader would prefer having a whore for a mother, a homosexual as a teacher, a meeting with the past that turns into a dead body that needs to be dealt with… but I will still insist that the book isn’t just about a journey from one end to the other of a series of quaking events.

This book has all the above elements that I have mentioned and you, as a reader, are free to convert it into whichever avatar you prefer and you’ll love riffling through the pages… no, not in a hurry to finally throw the book for pulping, but because you’ll be eager to know what happens next. The human mind finds intrigue, drama, adventure, romance, and even social responsibility if it is controlled and directed by deception. And we all are fascinated by Ravi because ‘his life was just a series of deceptions.

Meenu Talwar read a few pages from the book:

MLOS_read by Meenu Talwar

Book Details:

Title: Mothers, Lovers, & Other Strangers
Author: Bhaichand Patel
Publisher: Pan Books
Pages: 248
ISBN: 978-93-82616-0-92
Price: Rs 299/- (in 2013)


2013_06_17_The Education Post_Book Review_MLOS

2013_06_17_The Education Post_Book Review_MLOS


Some photographs from the MLOS launch party…

The author... Bhaichand Patel

The author… Bhaichand Patel

27 May... the launch day also happened to be Suhel Seth's birthday. Specky with Suhel.

27 May… the launch day also happened to be Suhel Seth’s birthday. Specky with Suhel.

27 May... the launch day also happened to be Suhel Seth's birthday. Specky with Suhel.

27 May… the launch day also happened to be Suhel Seth’s birthday. Specky with Suhel.



Arvind Passey
20 June 2013