Gateway to India: Night in Bombay

And downstairs on the groundfloor there was a vast hall and a huge stairway which led up and into the heights of the big hotel. Through the hall and the bazaar which occupied half its area came and went a procession of Arab horse-dealers, British Governors and Civil Servants, Indian Princes, jewel merchants, Parsi millionaires, Russian and German trollops, Comic middle-aged tourists, gamblers, oil prospectors. The procession went on day and night, for in the heat of the city and with the fantastic character of many of the guests, the place was as alive at four in the the morn as at midday.

Currently Reading
It is 1939. Europe may be sitting on a tinder box, but in one part of the British empire, the party continues. Bombay, the city of dreams, welcomes each and everyone. Bill Wainright is one such visitor. Travelling to India in order to look after his father’s business, he runs into a motley crowd that includes his ex-wife, Carol Halma, and friend Homer ‘Buck’ Merril.

I thought I’d never like a book where Indians are constantly referred to as savages. But I did. The primary reason being the author’s art of characterization. The main characters might seem cardboard cut-outs: Bill: the playboy who comes good; Buck: the missionary with the bleeding heart; Carol: the whore with the heart of gold, but the secondary characters have a life of their own. Jelly: the Maharaja of intrigue; Stich Trollope: the woman who simply cannot get it right; The Baroness who keeps everyone guessing; Col Moti  (Ahem!) who feels that the human heart is as logical as a science experiment. It is they who hold the book together.

Also it was nice to read about Bombay (now Mumbai) of yore and the Taj Mahal hotel being as accommodating as ever. Thus I could laugh at statements like this (remember this is an Indian speaking):

‘You must remember,’ said Mrs. Goswami, ‘that they’re savage. They’re not like me. I’ve been to Europe. most of them can’t even read and write. They think they’re right.’ (25).

Ahem and Double Ahem!!


First Line: His luggage was all ready to be taken ashore, his cabin in order, and now he stood on the upper deck just beneath the bridge watching the flying fish scud out of each green land swell of the Arabian Gulf like swift pencils of silver and disappear again in glittering jets of spray.

Title: Night in Bombay

Author: Louis Broomfield

Publication Details: ND: Penguin Books, 2011

First Published: 1940

Pages: 376


As Penguin India has recently republished the book, Night in Bombay is easily available in book stores and on the Net. I borrowed it from Dyal Singh Public library, ITO [823 B788N].


Submitted for the following reading challenges:

A – Z

Borrowed Book

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