In Siddharth Dhanvant Shanghvi’s The Lost Flamingoes of Bombay, the protagonist Karan is an outsider who wants to make Bombay his home. How he sees Bombay through his camera lens is what forms the primary plot of the story. The narrative weaves together different characters and incidents which influence Karan’s life. As per the author’s note, the book “is inspired, in part, by a range of events discussed extensively in the print media, films and on television…. and have echoes of such reports.”
The story dishes out some stereotypical characters from the Bombay society- the celebrity pianist, the famous actress, the gay foreign writer, the hardworking Muslim press guy, the South Bombay, bored housewife, her rich investment banker husband and a number of helpful yet faceless Mumbaikars. Amidst all of them our protagonist tries to find his own footing, his own identity, his own Bombay.
In the post ‘No one killed Jessica’ world perhaps, this book loses some of its steam as the central plot revolves around the celebrated murder. How the various characters cope with their own lives post the Zaira-murder forms the major part of the narrative.
The plot has all ingredients for the perfect recipe – a murder, an homosexual angle, an extra-marital love affair, jealousy, lust, riots, failed ambitions, successful dreams and political corruption. But somewhere it lacks the skill to combine all these separate elements into a nutritious feast for the mind.
Though the author tries to explore the layers of the narrative with somewhat poetic attempts but the badly constructed metaphors ( Smugness blasted out of her face like a fart”), (“The words escaped the judge’s mouth involuntarily, like a premature ejaculation), disturbs the serenity of other beautiful lines (People love people in such strange ways that you will need more than one lifetime to figure that one out).
Towards the end, our subaltern does find a voice amidst the chaos and yet like the Flamingoes of Sewri he decides to fly away perhaps to come back yet again another time.