Nominated | Book Awards 2020 | Creative Writing in English (Fiction & Poetry)
Bombay was the city everyone came to in the early decades of the nineteenth century: among them, the Goans and the Mangaloreans. Looking for safe harbour, livelihood, and a new place to call home. Communities congregated around churches and markets, sharing lord and land with the native East Indians. The young among them were nudged on to the path of marriage, procreation and godliness, though noble intentions were often ambushed by errant love and plain and simple lust. As in the story of Annette and Benji (and Joe) or Michael and Merlyn (and Ellena).
Lovers and haters, friends and family, married men and determined singles, churchgoers and abstainers, Bombay Balchão is a tangled tale of ordinary lives – of a woman who loses her husband to a dockyard explosion and turns to bootlegging, a teen romance that drowns like a paper boat, a social misfit rescued by his addiction to crosswords, a wife who tries to exorcise the spirit of her dead mother-in-law from her husband, a rebellious young woman who spurns true love for the abandonment of dance. Ordinary, except when seen through their own eyes. Then, it’s legend.
Set in Cavel, a tiny Catholic neighbourhood on Bombay’s D’Lima Street, this delightful debut novel is painted with many shades of history and memory, laughter and melancholy, sunshine and silver rain.
JANE BORGES is a Mumbai-based journalist. She currently writes on books, heritage and urban planning for Sunday mid-day, the weekend edition of mid-day newspaper. She has previously co-authored Mafia Queens of Mumbai: Stories of Women from the Ganglands with S. Hussain Zaidi in 2011.
It brought alive the city I know and call home—landlord-tenant fracases, collapsing buildings, chaotic markets with loud bargaining, evenings marked by the cycle bell of paowallahs with “an assortment of breads, khaaris and nankhatais in tarpaulin bags” and the never-ending water problems.- Huffington Post
Jane Borges, in her debut novel Bombay Balchao, examines an interesting, often-stereotyped community: the Catholics (and, even more specifically, Goan Catholics) of Bombay. – The New Indian Express
It’s obvious that she’s done a great deal of research into the history of Bombay, but she does a good job of incorporating that history. – The New Indian Express
Bombay Balchao, rich in detail about the customs, costumes and culinary traditions of Goans and Mangaloreans in Bombay.- India Today
Borges’s debut novel (she co-wrote a non-fiction book in 2012) is as much an ode to contemporary Mumbai as to old Bombay. The nearly forgotten Cavel that she sets out to preserve on paper has the vinegary, tangy punch of the Goan-favourite balchão masala that the novel is named after. To the outsider, this is a book of wonder, richness and theatrical moments. To me, it brought alive the city I know and call home—landlord-tenant fracases, collapsing buildings, chaotic markets with loud bargaining, evenings marked by the cycle bell of paowallahs with “an assortment of breads, khaaris and nankhatais in tarpaulin bags” and the never-ending water problems. I want nothing more than to take a walking tour with Bombay Balchão as my guide. You will long for the same too. – Huffington Post
The south Bombay neighbourhood of Cavel comes alive in the pages of Jane Borges’s debut novel… Bombay Balchao, rich in detail about the customs, costumes and culinary traditions of Goans and Mangaloreans in Bombay (Borges’s descriptions of how to make prawn balchao is practically food poetry), is a love letter by the author to a neighbourhood mostly forgotten. – India Today