Orderly chaos. This oxymoron has always stood out for me as a perfect metaphor of the world around us. Most of us love to pretend that there is a semblance of structure, clear cut emotions and reality. But what we don’t want to acknowledge is that we’re wrong. That the world is not just grey, it is filthy grey. It’s grim, dirty and downright punishing.
What we refuse to acknowledge, is what Thayil thrives in. In a beautifully written book, he has somehow managed to pen the most moving, touching and yet downright disgusting ode to a city that is exactly that. A mud and muck covered monster that will swallow you whole, but you’ll love it. His drug addict protagonist is sharply aware of both the lows and highs(pun intended) of his habit, and is enthralled by it. A purist and a conservative reader might recoil and shrivel on reading his words, but at the heart of the book is the story of a broken man, a recent widower struggling with the loss of perhaps the only person who understood him, and ironically, the one person he never completely understood.
Low is extremely subtle in its narrative, capturing nuances which most works ignore. Reading it is in itself an intoxication if the substance marred underbelly of Bombay, one which shows the city at its disgusting best and beautiful worst.