Friday, June 10, 2005

Maximum City!


I have just finished reading a book about Mumbai - 'Maximum City'. Its by Suketu Mehta. I liked the book, mostly cos its about my city.

I have been born and brought up in Mumbai, before comming to the United States I have never stayed anywhere else than my home in Bombay. And yet there was a whole new Mumbai that I knew nothing about.

Although the book can be enjoyed by most people, its really made for someone from Mumbai, its best sections cannot be understood by an outsider. One thing I can tell u about this book : U will never look at Mumbai the same way.

Parts of it are very touching, parts are very hillarious, some parts deal with violence in such detail that u become immune and depressed after a while. My love for Mumbai wasnt affected by what the book said - I didnt imagine it would be. For most part it presents true picture of Mumbai - which is to put it mildly very grim. I feel that the book could have been written in a more optimistic way. But that is me.

I have always believed myself to be an objective person, capable of making neutral judgements without letting personal feelings prejudice me. But in the case of Mumbai, I donot feel the same confidence, the city is like a lover to me, it is for many people who live here.

One point though I want to make is that the city is much more comfortable and safe for the common middle class man than the book describes. Most middle class people cannot afford to buy houses in South Mumbai and hence live on the outskirts. They travel to their offices in South Mumbai in the local trains. It is entirely possible and simple to travel in Mumbai locals safely without being killed. If planned wisely you can get a seat and travel comfortably to your destination 90% of the times. Mumbai trains are by far the cheapest and most effective means of public transport in India if not the whole world. Indeed you can travel to and fro from VT to my place for a month for less than 5 dollars. A single trip on the Philadelphia Septa costed me more.

If you are a middle class professional working in a company or a call centre, you can live comfortably in Vashi or Thane, travel to your place for work and come back in good spirits. You can have a cell phone at an affordable price, you can eat out twice a week and take your girl friend to watch a movie and take her to many kissing sessions at dozens of places that lovers have (panchgani talav in thane is an eg). And there is no gangster and no criminal that will harm you. You are inert to politics. And you have what it takes to live good. You can buy a bike to roam the city as Vivek Oberoi did on Marine Drive, install ur gf on the back seat and sing O Humdum Soniyo re. You work Monday thru Saturday and enjoy Sunday.

Mumbai is a far more positive place than the author of this book portrays it to be.

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Anonymous said...

oh this is one of my favorites, I read it while I was at school in US and it transported me to Mumbai, felt like I was sitting in my balcony drinking chai :), have you read Shantaram?

Sanket Korgaonkar said...

Yeah - I've read Shataram - in terms of capturing Mumbai I think it does a better job. You can feel Mumbai from the eyes of an insider a Mumbaikar as opposed to an NRI.

Anonymous said...

Yup and what a difference it makes...

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