Thursday, August 24, 2006

Maximum City

Bombay.. or Mumbai.. No! Bombay!!... The city that I’m physically attracted to. That living, breathing (well coughing atleast) metropolis is more alive to me than Shah Rukh bloody Khan. It’s the city in which I’ve spent only six of my 24 or allegedly 33 years. Yet, that’s where I feel at home. Stuffed along with 6 others in 1 square metre of space in a local train on my way to Macdees to eat the angrej ka khaana, eating shejwaaan noodals on a roadside as a truck from Punjab sprays some of mere desh ki dharti on my plate, and peeing from the top of a cliff in the hills of Powai after a night of Whisky, vodka, rum, brandy and does-it-matter??

This is my city. Although, 20 million others feel exactly the same way, that feeling is not as overwhelming in any other city, not even Dubai where I spent most of my life. Anything is possible here. As Rahul Bose recently put it. Ho jayega saab.

The book Maximum City is about my city! Suketubhai as Chotta Shakeel calls him has woven an excellent narrative and you find yourself waiting for the next story he’s about to tell about the wonderful monstrosity that is Bombay. He goes from talking to Hindu rioters during the ‘92-’93 riots and then moves on to the Muslims who were involved in the ’93 bomb blasts. The Shiv Sena, the tinseltown of Bombay, the red light districts and the dance bars.

He portrays every narrative as an example of how that section of people are spoiling the city. His beautiful Bombay of his childhood. Sanjay Dutt, Vidhu Vinod Chopra, Bal Thackeray and Amitabh all have their roles. The strangest feeling however is when he narrates incidents that occur close to where I’ve been. Sakinaka, Kandivali, Mira Road, the Taj, Goregaon and Jogeshwari, they’re as close to me as my neighbours next door. I might have run into Suketu or even better his characters during one of my sojourns.

A very bold book in the least, Suketu has written it as he saw it. It’s not for the weak of stomach though, there are quite graphic scenes around murders, riots, rapes, etc.. There are very few non-fiction books that can keep you turning pages or make you read continually from 7 in the morning to 9:30 at night and still want more.

I won’t end with the cliché ‘A book for every bombayite’, but definitely worth a read. Brings you crashing down to earth!

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