Bombay Bhel: Stories by Ken Doyle. Ken Doyle. Loquent Press. February 2013. 190 pp. ISBN#: 9780615763576.
These stories are redolent with the spices and flavors of Bombay, now called Mumbai, India, but they’re also about the different type of residents who fill that huge city with their loves, hates, struggles, poverty, riches, and more.
Meet Hassan, frantic to find out if his parents have survived the Kapilgaon riots in which his family’s home is burned beyond hope. His Anglo friend Brian wonders if Hassan is all right, not knowing he inadvertently becomes one more victim of the Hindu-driven violence.
We learn about a student’s love of Mr. Watson, an independent, free-thinking principal of St. Magnus School. He’s a man despised by the Jesuit priests who do everything to make Mr. Watson a failure and eventually wind up pushing him into an early retirement. Prejudice abounds on many unexpected levels in these stories.
Annie, whose husband has passed away, is now forced to move into her son’s home. This story depicts her memories and personal objects associated with tender times. Change is a difficult but positive reality for these people who have survived difficult but cherished days of old.
So these stories continue, depicting the severity of money-lenders who help the poor but harshly enforce the terms of that assistance. Kindness and compassion are anomalies in a city replete with those bordering on financial disaster at every moment of their lives, those who scramble for success in a fiercely competitive business environment.
It’s a hard world endured by the poor in these stories but rich in relationships and vivacious in determination to get ahead, no matter what the cost. Love of food, education, independence and different social groups fill these pages with delightful, yet real, stories sure to engage any and every reader. Keep writing, Ken Doyle – you’ve got the Muse!