Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Bloodline Bandra - A Seminal Work of Fiction

For hundreds of years – five hundred to be exact - Godfrey Pereira’s people spoke a corrupt form of English called Mack-a-pao English. Through his novel Bloodline Bandra Pereira has brought this language to the attention of the world. This is a seminal and ground-breaking work in this regard.
However, one shortfall I found while reading the story is that often this language of the village in which he was brought up intrudes into the narrative. The first forty pages are replete with “bleddy good one bugger,” and “Shee baba” that forms of address which distracts the reader. I, for one, know the language because I have grown up among Catholics and speak it, too. But for a novitiate it could prove a frustrating exercise. It is sort of like reading Irvine Welsh’s “Train Spotting” a novel in which the British forms of English is spoken and one can’t make much headway after a few pages.

Bloodline Bandra - a Seminal Work of Fiction
However, since I understood the lingo I persisted in reading Pereira’s Bloodline Bandra and found it to be good, especially after the story really began, in the second half. So, in my humble opinion, the second half should have been the first half, in which case the novel could have read much better. But, that’s my opinion. The novel is a seminal work, a first of its kind, which should be savoured for its description of what New York is like from the eyes of an illegal immigrant. The sleaze makes no sense, the life is hostile, and the cold gets to your bones.

The story is about a Bandra boy named David from Pali Village immigrating to the U.S. to work for a newspaper. He is given subsistence wage and is asked to live in the office. He leaves one newspaper to work in another and finds both his bosses mean and exploitative. They also promise him the Green Card but do not apply for it on his behalf. A Green Card would have given him the opportunity to change his job and be a legal immigrant. The protagonist agonises over why Indians change after they go to the U.S. They become mean and bad tempered and have their eyes only for making money by exploiting illegal labour.

He is mugged by a sweet-talking black man named Duke Ellington in Harlem. The black man points to his watch and says, “I would like to have it, that’s if you don’t mind, sir.” He also asks to see David’s wallet. David gives away all the money he has. Frustrated by his life, David tries to kill himself by throwing himself under a train, but is held back by fellow commuters. In the premier city of a world he finds love in a Japanese girl Hatsumi Nakamura, who plays the cello at Grand Central station. It’s the love of this girl that keeps David going and he is distraught when she has to leave New York because an earthquake has devastated her native town and her father is missing.

The novel – in the second half – is fast paced and is tightly crafted to appear like a murder mystery, or, thriller. Yes, there is a murder in it! The author is working on another novel and hopefully this reviewer will get to read more of his elevating prose. A truly commendable work by a Bandra boy.

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