D-Tales: April (Narcopolis by Jeet Thayil)

Bloody Underrated


I just finished this book with a sense of “what just happened here?” Did these things really happen, or were they just hallucinations? Because they very well could have been with an opium pipe as the main “character.” You’d think a title like Narcopolis would prepare you for a tale of drugs in a big city, but there is much more to Jeet Thayil’s novel than that. Religion, politics, addiction, sex, and violence are all there too.

The story begins, as it ends, with a handcrafted, wooden opium pipe that passed through many hands over the years. When Dom, the narrator, first encountered it, it was in Bombay in the 1970s at Rashid’s, the best opium den on Shuklaji Street. At the time though, the pipe belonged to Dimple, the eunuch and prostitute turned pipe-maker with a passion for learning. She was greatly admired by all in her day, though…

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