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Bombay Lost & Found

Bombay Lost & Found

I finally picked up a copy of Maximum City: Bombay Lost & Found by Suketu Mehta during my last shopping trip to Ernakulam, the commercial capital of Kerala. This  time round I was mainly looking for some linen shirts and a new smartphone all the while trying hard to avoid bookstores as I always end up leaving with a formidable stack of books that end up clogging the little space I have at my disposal. But once again I succumbed this time to the lure of this new and well stocked store that I had not visited before. For those in Kerala, I’m talking about the book department at Reliance, Oberon Mall. India is a book lovers paradise as books are cheap and every genre is present with many publishers like Penguin and Random House making slightly cheaper versions of their European equivalents available on the Indian market. And if you want to go to the black market then also every street corner can be a place to discover something exciting.

I’ve actually wanted to read this  600-page epic on Bombay for quite some time now but for some reason have not had the chance or time. I’m excited as it comes highly recommended by friends and has been favorably received by critics. I really love books about India but proceed slightly cautiously as it would seem that it is not easy to write a good book on the subject. Many that I’ve read have left a lot to desire, especially ones written with a political or religious bias of some denomination. Everyone seems to have an axe to grind or some hidden or not so hidden agenda to execute. It could even be argued that to write objectively about a country like India is not a feasible task at all. This country is like a vast canvas on which it is easy to superimpose one’s own phantasmagoria. Maybe I will one day have my own go at it, lord help us.

I especially like reading about cities I have personally spent a good bit of time in even though I did enjoy Orhan Pamuk’s autobiographical book Istanbul quite a bit. My preferred cities in India are Bombay, Calcutta and Delhi along with endless runners-up queuing up after them. I have felt drawn to them ever since I first came to India fifteen years ago. Now someone  may want to ask , ‘how can you like such overpopulated and polluted cities?’. Obviously many people won’t get past certain aspects of the urban experience in India and quickly make their way out of the cities on their way to the hill stations. I love hills stations too but not at the cost of missing out on the many wonderful things await the patient and open minded visitor in these vast urban jungles. Cafés, art galleries, concerts, restaurants, bazaars, fashion, design, architecture….the list goes on. My favorite book on Delhi is William Dalrymple’s City Of Djinns, which I highly recommend. I will write an entry about it at some point as its a must read on any Indophiles list.

For all this talk of cities I am writing this in the middle of nowhere with the sound of the sea in the background and pure air in my nostrils. I love a pristine and pollution free environment just like everyone else but sometimes I cannot take the quiet life anymore and I must head for the mega-cities once again. And I always will no matter what the pollution rates are or how many people have deemed them to be urban catastrophes. They make me feel like I’m part of a greater humanity. I like to lose myself in their soothing anonymity. I guess I am  torn between two worlds in many ways.

So on this blog you will read both about  tribal peopling living in the most remote parts of the world and the goings on in the biggest cities on our planet.

Ah yes, the book…commencing now to read and will get back to you at a later date.

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