The Death of Mr Love
I didn’t realise quite how deeply one can love a landscape until many years after this novel was published. When I think of the book now, what comes to me first is not its characters, nor the story, but the hills in which much of it takes place; ancient, jungle-covered climbs of basalt, each with its own name: Bichhauda, Little Brother, Duke’s Nose.
I called them the Ambona Hills but they are of course the Western Ghats or Sahyadri mountains of my childhood. Half a century later I still long to walk on these hills and smell herbs crushing under my feet. I want to find the rocks that break open like coconuts full of crystals and sniff the sulphur-tang of air trapped inside 66 million years ago. I want to lick salty dust off quartzes to make them glow, go climbing for mangos, pick berries, offer drops of honey to night-visiting moths and wait impatiently for the rains.
As for the book’s people, I loved them as I wrote about all the things their loves and fears and jealousies brought into being: the notorious Bombay society murder, the vilified victim and lionised killer, the trial that made Indian legal history. All these things are gone, like shadows flowing across the hills dissolving into air and oblivion. The hills remain.