by Kunal Basu
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Jami is the Gigolo King of Kalkatta. Smuggled into India from Bangladesh and given refuge by his uncle, a leader of the ruling Communist Party, he grows up in Zakaria Street—a Little Baghdad of the old—dreaming of becoming a pukka Kalkatta-wallah. When friendship with a local gang disqualifies him from school, he ends up as assistant to a passport forger, and then a masseur. Soon enough, innocent massage leads to ‘plus plus treatments’, and Kalkatta opens its doors, drawing Jami into the world of the rich and famous, housewives, tourists and travelling executives, and occasionally to high-paying and dangerous ‘parties’. Danger looms, too, from rivals and the police, and the ever-present risk of losing his cover. Jami’s shadowy double life takes a turn for the unexpected when he meets Pablo, a young boy who suffers from leukemia, and his single mother Mandira. Made to oscillate between his refugee family, the neighbourhood gang, his massage-parlour clients, even the cultured world of Bengali intellectuals inhabited by Mandira, he succeeds in becoming a true Kalkatta-wallah, but a stranger to himself. Until his love for Pablo threatens to destroy everything, and drive him away even from his beloved Kalkatta.
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