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The Death of Vishnu

The Death of Vishnu, by Manil Suri
Vishnu is dying on the staircase of a crowded apartment building in Bombay. He has been living on the staircase, a coveted location, and paying for the privilege by running errands for the more favoured residents. As he lies in a fevered condition, two worlds swirl around him, the real world and the dream world of his memories and fantasies.
The real world is the tiny but populous world of the apartment block, where a man mourns his dead wife, two housewives fight over their shared kitchen, a Muslim householder dreams of founding a new religion to unite Hindus and Muslims, and his son schemes with the daughter of Hindu neighbours to elope in a style befitting the Bollywood movies she loves.
Vishnu's dream world is also full of wishes and longings, and memories of his love for the beautiful but (almost always) unavailable Padmini. Vishnu's mother comes back to him in memory, reminding him he is a god, and he begins to believe that he is. As the apartment residents step past Vishnu's semi-conscious body, only sure he is not dead because of his occasional stirrings or faint cries, he becomes a touchstone for their own compassion, beliefs and self-images. This is a strange and beautiful story, beautifully told.