Saturday, October 9, 2010

Mystique of Mumbai

In her book City of Gold: The Biography of Bombay, Gillian Tindal evoked an image of a nascent city, a tangle of masonry, bazaar and tram lines forging into the swamp. In books set in more recent times (India: A Million Mutinies Now, Maximum City: Bombay Lost and Found, Shantaram, Bombay and Mumbai: The City In Transition), we see a proud metropolis hollowed out by desperation, violent self assertion and crime. For a sense of how ordinary people, rich, poor and middle class, negotiate this turbulent landscape, we have the writings of Salman Rushdie, Rohinton Mistry, Vikram Chandra, Anita Desai, Amit Chaudhuri, Manil Suri and a host of less widely celebrated but much beloved local authors and poets. This treasure trove notwithstanding, one feels, there is still much to be said, much more to be understood about this great and complex city. And it is with pleasant anticipation that one greets Gyan Prakash’s Mumbai Fables.

Prakash is the Dayton-Stockton professor of history at Princeton University whose previous books include weighty titles such as Bonded Histories: Genealogies of Labor Servitude in Colonial India (1990) and Another Reason: Science and the Imagination of Modern India (1999). But with Mumbai Fables, a subject he says has preoccupied him for much of the last decade, he seems to have tapped into a less theoretical and more personal register. Explaining his motivation early on in the book, he describes Mumbai, or Bombay, as it then was, as an object of immense fascination and longing for him as a young boy growing up in Patna.

Full report here Indian Express

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