And so it happens to be that Eunice De Souza taught my boyfriend English Literature at St. Xavier’s College, Bombay and he can never stop praising her and what she writes. I recently gave him her book of collected poems, “A Necklace of Skulls” (apparently the one she used to wear with her cotton saris which were not hemmed) and during that conversation he brought up “Dangerlok” and that really prompted me to go pick it up and read it.
Might I also add that Dangerlok is not easily available in Bombay anymore and I wonder why, considering that is a great book. Well in this case the book literally came to me and I did not regret the decision of the book.
Every sentence is precise in the book. Nothing is wasted. Every emotion is exact. Now to the plot: What is Dangerlok about? Dangerlok is Mumbai – the swirl, the scum, the acid aftertaste, the lingering, the seductive city who lures you and then enters your head and heart like a disease. And in between all this stands the protagonist, Rina Ferreira (positively modelled after Eunice) who is an English Literature Teacher, who lives in Santacruz East with her two parrots – Totha and Tothi and her hoard of books, writing letters to David (a man who she once loved and may be still does), enjoying a casual cab ride, observing her neighbours, friends, cabwallahs, the existence of them all and the humour and irony behind things that seem so little and normal on an average day. She comes across Dangerlok on a daily basis while smoking her cigarettes and drinking her jungli tea. She observes. She notices and dashes off letters to David about the world that surrounds her.
I cannot put a finger on what I felt while reading this book – I loved it to such a great extent. It was the description of the small things – Totha sitting on her head as she opens the door to a neighbour, the memory of having bought David Copperfield for four bucks, her worry over her parrots and hence she does not leave the city for long, the fact that she does not want to be “involved in life” and yet her heart goes out to the stray pup, nutty clerks at the postoffice who refuse to acknowledge, and many such instances. De Souza gives Rina her space to play, her canvas to paint and yet its sad that the canvas is only a mere 124-page long novella. It makes you yearn for more. There is ennui and there is hope. But you better watch out, because chances of seeing Dangerlok everywhere around you are not that slim.