{Free kindle} Maximum City: Bombay Lost and Found Author Suketu Mehta – Sisnlaw.co.uk

Maximum City: Bombay Lost and Found It is considered a great book by many on Bombay – now Mumbai The writer shows us what makes this city unique and different from other big cities in India He goes on to give very detailed information on how the city operates It is the mafia, slums, Bollywood, corruption that makes the city a 'Maximum City.' There are certain sections of the book that I enjoyed reading When this book was written, there were powerful politicians who ruled the city One name that immediately comes to mind is that of Bal Thackeray Mehta's meeting with him, as it was described in the book, is an interesting one Even though Bala Saab was an extreme right, proHindu politician and journalist, he did not know where his house was located in Bombay He did not know the geography of the city This is scary to know in the sense that people who become so powerful and have the destiny of millions in their hands could be so monumentally ignorant Another fascinating trope in the book is where the author talks about mafia and slums Almost everyone in Mumbai, especially the privileged, is marred by the presence of mafia– in direct and indirect ways Half of the book is the study of mafia and its connection with Bollywood For instance, he writes about 'Bombay Blasts' of 1993 and the wellknown actor Sanjay Dutt's involvement in it The book, in very conspicuous ways, tells us how class, caste, and even the knowledge of the English language help one to survive the city Of course, one knows this because this true for most other Indian cities too However, it is the underworld that put Bombay in another zone Also, Unlike other urban centers in India, Bombay is the business center It is the work that matters here and not the protocols But unfortunately, bureaucracy works here in the same ways as it does in other parts of India; it crushes the poor and works only for the tiny few One must add that the city also has some pluses such as it is safe for the women So many societal rules and traditions that are stringently followed in the rest of the country are less in vogue in Bombay However, the city has its own problems, its own character that makes it at once enticing and diabolic One notices this binary Perhaps, it is the diabolic features of Bombay that appeal to Mehta There are books that you read, and you love them, and then you write reviews There are other books that you read with effort, and then write reviews with even greater effort I guess for me this book is too big and in parts, it becomes boring, very boring I wonder how come so many people claim this book to be the greatest book ever written Bombay – now, Mumbai For instance, I find such claims rather absurd because at least I know of one other author – Manto – who wrote brilliantly on Bombay Unlike Mehta, Manto wrote on the city as one of its members Mehta's gaze on the city is that of a disinterested (western) anthropologist on his own city At times this is a plus, and sometimes it reeks of snobbery and selfhatred In spite of this book being lavished with positive reviews both in the press and here on Goodreads, I found it incredibly boring I leapfrogged my way through it, skipping chunky tracts as I skimmed its 600 or so pages The bits that interested me discussed the infrastructure and practical problems of the city of Mumbai, which is massively overpopulated, has substantial slums, and has some bizarre laws regarding accommodation The bits that bored me were the long journalistic reports of the author's interactions with racist politicians, figures of the underworld, workers in dance bars, Bollywood writers, people from slums plus a long, drawnout story about a relative who was in the process of becoming a Jain monk Generally I love stories about people but these stories just dragged and dragged and dragged I found them absolutely exhausting.One odd point of interest was that whilst this book swam around in the underbelly of Mumbai life, I was also being exposed to the ultimate in Mumbai luxury Whilst reading the book I also happened to be watching a threepart television series about The Taj Mahal Palace Hotel A bastion of exquisite perfection in an imperfect world It was weird shifting between the top and bottom extremes of Mumbai life, with nothing in between, no discussion of ordinary people doing ordinary jobs and living ordinary lives I presume they must be in there somewhere. Circa 1992 It was a regular school day on a lovely December morning(winters are warm not cold in Bombay).With just an hour left to midmorning recess, there was a sudden flurry of anxious announcements calling certain students to report immediately with their belongings at the Principal’s office After being little nosy about the happenings I go back to my daydreaming Suddenly, I see my mother hurriedly demanding that I go and collect my younger sister from her classroom As I walk through the school compound frantic parents rush in and out of the school premises with their children As we walk towards the car I see my father tensed and horrified to some extent He had just escaped death(which we knew later that evening Four men had hurled bombs in front of him at a nearby housing development while my father was driving through traffic) A riot had broken in the streets nearby as we frantically rushed home, I could see shutters closing at the speed of light, people scattering, some flinging acid bulbs and destruction of harmless developments That was the day the HinduMuslim riots let a demon loose for which innocents had to pay with their humble lives in the coming horrendous months I still remember those days vividly for I have been a front row spectator to the bloodshed occurred in the name of religion ignited by few political rivals I lived among trepidations that lasted for years to come by Lost people I knew and religion once again became a crucial factor in our mundane lives The citizens of Bombay (I resist from calling it Mumbai, always) bravely faced those murky days, which I witnessed closely with resilience and banishing all prejudices imposed by political cults Over decades the city has seen its share of political violence and interreligion hatred, but its people have always made it through with smiling faces.Thus, when an individual who summons his exploration of a nostalgic hometown proclaiming that he has seen enough murderers and questioned their virtues, it irks me.I am not denying factual comprehensions of this book, as it would be utterly preposterous to overlook the shame that Bombay once faced or has not being able to strike an equilibrium in honored survival, however I do question the validity of his sentiments to a place he calls “Maximum City” where he once unreservedly wandered as a kid Mehta says he left the city in 1977 only to be back after 21years to find him in a state of utter shock There is no falsehood, no dramatic sequences to define the underbelly of my home city, nevertheless I get annoyed each time I open the pages and read those words Rarely a book touches me on a personal note, but these words dishearten me as they are negative of a place and its people who strive hard for a living Fair enough, there are vast discrepancies in the standard of living There are some who die homeless in scorching heat whereas others never travel without an airconditioned comfort There are some who demand beluga caviar on toast for tea –time and indulge in La Prairie Cellular serums while others barely make it through the day without a proper meal It is extremely difficult to rationalize these disparities that hit you in the face in the most mysterious ways But, these do not define all Why wasn’t there a prose about people striving everyday braving obstacles with dignified audacity to make a better living About individuals determined to make a dignified and prosperous future come what may People amalgamating into one joyous mass rejoicing each cultural festival with the same magnanimous excitement banishing all ethnic prejudices The chapters on “Bollywood” signify braggart purposes It is a film industry for crying out loud; an entertainment business where almost all actors are purely performers and not artistic geniuses that venerates the true meaning of art Nothing can be gained from it rather that a minority percentage of artistes that depart frothy amusement to make assiduous lives cheerful Most art films (movies depicting social causes and instabilities) do not fare well with common psyche This very attitude shows the annoyance of a mind resisting it to shun “moralistic virtues” performed by artistes that have been rehearsed to achieve precision Is it disheartening? Not really When it comes to choosing authenticity over illusionary realism, the latter is always preferred.One would refute my caustic words claiming that with my privileged lifestyle I must be the last person to comment on the imbalanced financial and educational status of this city I have never lived without food, shelter or money Then how would I know the depth of a suffering One does not have to be poor to know what poverty is One does not have to be fraudulent to know what corruption is I was born in Bombay, schooled here and I presently live in this city all hale and hearty Unlike the author, I have been away from Bombay for a span of 9 years, while I was studying in the US But, that does not give me the right to condemn the city mechanics or garner negativity As you cannot expect a child to stay a child forever, you cannot anticipate a burgeoning city to stay in its purest unscathed form From what I observed, the author seems perplexed with his distinctiveness He tried finding a sense of belonging in New York stressed through the binding stereotypes only to come back to the place of his origin and see it modified into a strange land that once again botched a sense of belonging.Bombay will always be my home come what may I have traveled around many superior worldly cities, yet the imminent landing announcement at the Bombay airport somehow makes me warmly smile every freaking time The city is heavily crowded, poverty and richness juxtaposes every road that spirals into politically corrupt governing display of unreliable loyalties and prone to religious debates But, this does not define its landscapes, its populace It is a city where dreams are built; life is raw imparting valuable teachings of resilient determination, where people smile even in the most tedious times, ethnicities are celebrated with joyfulness and life is seen at it nastiest and its finest It is a place where I grew up and took long walks with my grandfather relishing every aspect of this marvelous city Bombay is not a place full of murderers or politically agitated goons, it is haven of magnificent, soulful people who fight all odds and nurture a ravishing tomorrow Now, this is what I would term as “Maximum City”.Lastly, one question that troubles me is why only those who bring together pessimistic opinions are the ones who have stayed away from the core of Bombay nudging stereotypes in a foreign land?Praj, why after such scathing opinion would you bestow a 3star rating on this book? Is this you being diplomatic or commiserating the author’s hard slog? Ah, I get it This book makes you defensive about your home city and makes you affectionate for something you disregarded that this book interleaves in you. I toyed with creating a new category for this book: Nonfiction Stranger Than Fiction But no Some of the stories and experiences of people that this book chronicles do seem very farfetched (say, to mention just one out of several dozen, the former newspaper cartoonist who becomes boss of one of the strongest Hindu fundamentalist parties in the country – an Indian Rush Limbaugh – and who provokes some of the most violent riots in the country’s history.) But it is all believable once you recognize that the world is a far meaner, violent, corrupt, or at least a far different place than one would probably imagine living in one of the wealthier countries on the planet.Although the Maximum City of the title is Bombay, this book is also and I would say primarily about poverty,precisely, the extremes of existence that poverty creates; extremes of tolerance and intolerance, violence and benevolence, community and isolation Even in chapters that do not directly deal with poverty, such as the excellent chapter on the Indian film industry, the desperate masses are never far from the author’s focal point.One of my dozenorso favorite episodes from this book is Adjust, a passage about the Bombay train system Toward the end of this section, a man whose job it is to monitor communal violence and religious flareups within the Bombay slums in short, someone who regularly sees some of the worst aspects of humanity is asked if he is pessimistic about the human race He responds Not at all Look at the hands from the train He is referring to all of the hands that stretch out of the train cars when someone is running alongside the train car, reaching to pull you in It is one of several very beautiful passages, and all I can do is quote from it at length:“Your fellow passengers, already packed tighter than cattle are legally allowed to be, their shirts already drenched in sweat in the badly ventilated compartments, having stood like this for hours, retain an empathy for you, know that your boss might yell at you or cut your pay if you miss the train, and will make space where none exists to take oneperson with them And at the moment of contact, they do not know if the hand that is reaching for theirs belongs to a Hindu or Muslim or Christian or Brahmin or untouchable … All they know is that you are trying to get to the city of gold, and that’s enough.” I'm fascinated by the hype over Mehta's travelogue This book portrays women as objects, poor people as criminals, and the Bollywood elite as deserving the resentment of a bitter New York based writer who can't quite find a place in the city of his youth So I'm struggling to understand what all the hype is about.This is not, contrary to what reviews would lead us to believe, a book about Bombay Instead, it's a book about being an outsider, and it does a decent job grappling with alienation and nostalgia It's also a book about misogyny and elitism, at least as experienced by an unsympathetic narrator.But as a book about Bombay, I think I missed something critical here There is the glitz of Bollywood, the glam of dancing girls, the grime of the underworld But there is nothing about the city: a city that is so muchthan the stereotypes Mehta is fixated upon I felt dirty after reading this book, like a voyeur who realizes the implications of their own gaze. This is one of the toughest books I've ploughed through That's because every page I turned just ended up increasing my irritation with Suketu Mehta Let me say this upfront: this the most hypocritical, sanctimonious, pretentious purported writer I have *ever* come across, and Mehta's voice throughout this book disgusted me.Perhaps evenimportant to state is this: that this book is potentially dangerous To an uninitiated reader, the misrepresentations, and biases (glaringly obvious to me) of the writer would amount to a warped, if not completely wrong, understanding of Mumbai as a city, and even the country as a whole More on that later, as it will need examples from the book to illustrate the point (yes, this is going to be a *long* review, but I just needed to vent..)I picked up this book because it seemed interesting: who would pass up a chance at discoveringabout a city as vibrant and diverse as Mumbai? And the book comes highly recommended, with so many reviewers heaping praise on Mehta for making nonfiction seem as interesting as fiction (this is true, but that's mostly because that's precisely what he *tries* to do in his book). Right from the beginning, his condescending tone hits the reader Along with his complete confusion; he just doesn't know what he wants! He returns to Mumbai from New York, in search of the city he grew up in This kind of nostalgia could have been endearingly naive The problem is the sneering outsider's tone he adopts upon his return: the constantly whining, patronising tone It really is allpervasive, that persistent note of complaint, running through over a hundred pages of print! You feel like shaking him, demanding to know why he came back to Bombay of all cities, if he was going to get all delicate and fragile and do nothing but complain about the place He doesn't know what he wants for his children He is stuck in a time warp of the city as it was when he grew up in it He wants his son to have exactly the education he had while growing up But his son doesn't fit in, so he complains about his son's school, about the parents of other children studying in that school because they weren't inclusive enough Subsequently, when it emerges that his son is happier in an expensive school, studying with rich kids, that is a cause for complaint too, because now his son would go on..to join the ranks of boys that looked down on my younger self Nothing can make this guy happy As he's worrying about his son growing up looking down on a certain section of society, he displays rank hypocrisy with his own elitist attitude towards Marathi speaking locals:..another world whose people came to wash our clothes, look at our electric meters, drive our cars, inhabit our nightmares Maharashtra to us was our servants, the banana lady downstairs, the text books we were forcefed in school We had a term for them ghatis. also the word we used, generically, for 'servant' I was in the fourth standard when Marathi became compulsory How we groaned It was the servants' language, we saidThis elitist behaviour of Mehta's is fine, because who cares about the Maharashtrians anyway, right? But the thought of his son looking down at the kind of kid he used to be himself, the slice of society that Mehta himself had belonged to, now THAT was truly worrying [sarcasm alert]!Mehta does not seem to be able to identify with ANY class of society, let alone with humanity at large; he merely finds fault with them all, mocking their lifestyles and thoughts with what he assumes to be witty sarcasm It comes across as empty clamour for attention He sneers contemptuously at the rich, their parties, and their lifestyles He looks down on the poor, cringes at the squalor in which they live, not because he feels sympathy for their predicament, but because he feels disgust He distrusts them, often implying his low opinion of their behaviour As for the middle class, he can only refer patronizingly to them, ridiculing their beliefs and way of life, believing himself to be superior somehow, and a class apart And I found the language insufferable Let me illustrate with an example There is a line..given all that up for this fools' errand, looking for silhouettes in the mist of the ghost time.Really? REALLY? What does that even *mean*? It doesn't even sound one bit artsy, or poetic, if that's what he was going for Neither does it sound like clear intelligible English And the book is full of such attempts at sounding poetic or deep.Coverage of the Bombay riots is patchy, and partisan Many lives were lost, and the story can be given any kind of spin the writer wants, merely by selecting what one decides to narrate There are so many stories of atrocity on both sides But the impression that comes across while reading Mehta's carefully picked stories, is that of a writer attempting to project himself as that sensitive thinking individual, replete with all its holierthanthouness.The topic of HinduMuslim riots is provocative enough without Mehta resorting to theatrics to grab readers' eyeballs, anddangerously, their imagination His prose is needlessly polarising, instead of even attempting to be matter of fact; which is what any unbiased writer would strive for Sadly, however, Mehta does exactly the opposite, resorting to needles and excessive dramatisation of every instance He lends religious and political colour to otherwise neutral statements, referring to a cry of Bharat mata ki jai as being..in praise of the Hindu country.Overall, that chapter gives the reader an overwhelming sensation that this is all about the writer, about how he's trying to project his own image, how he resorts to cheap theatrics to try and keep gullible readers hooked to his story Because that's exactly how it reads: like an action novel whose storyline has been scripted to polarise the reader, not like a nonfiction book supposedly presenting a neutral fact sheet of events.Then there'smisrepresentation and hypocrisy in Mehta's depiction on underworld gang leader, Chotta Shakeel: Chotta Shakeel, the operational commander of the Muslim gangs, is doing what the government has failed to do He is extracting revenge for the riots He is going after people like the exMayor, Milind Vaidya, who was named in the Srikrishna report for having personally attacked Muslims Shakeel is consulting the report; he is the executive to Srikrishna's judiciary Just this much, and noTo a reader unfamiliar with India, or with Mumbai, this would make Chotta Shakeel seem like an eastern cousin of Robin Hood, or a vigilante, meting out justice where the law of the land fails to deliver justice Mehta fails to give the most rudimentary introduction to who Chotta Shakeel actually is: one of the closest aides of Dawood Ibrahim, who needs no introduction, being among the world's most dreaded criminals.[It was at this point that I decided I would skim through the rest of the book, not read it through That this book did not deserve the respect of being taken seriously Honestly, it doesn't even warrant the time taken to read it, but I have my own compulsive IwillfinishthisbookIstarted issues I'm still grappling with.]Everywhere possible, Mehta indulges in Hindubashing, relevant or not Take for example this discussion on renting an apartment in Mumbai, and the concept of a paying guest: There are three personal gods that every Hindu is supposed to revere: mother, father, guest There is no category for 'paying guest'..This sticks out like a sore thumb in a discussion which, until then, was exclusively about the concept of paying guests and the problems they face You're left wondering how religion suddenly leapfrogged into the picture.There's (obviously)fiendish regionalism from Mehta when he describes the changing of Bombay to Mumbai: In 1995, the Sena demanded that we choose, in all our languages, Mumbai This is how the ghatis took revenge on us They renamed everything after their politicians, and finally they renamed even the city If they couldn't afford to live on our roads, they could at least occupy our road signs.What does he even mean by not being able to afford to live on roads? That sentence just makes no sense at all All it does is betray his contempt for all Marathi speaking people, and expose his bitterness and smallminded regional bigotry There were many, manysuch infuriating passages (if they irritated me this much, I don't even know how much they'd irritate Marathi people who bothered reading this drivel) But it wouldn't make sense for me to quote them all I could rewrite the book itself..The sad part is that this book *could have been* so engaging Had Mehta tried to tie in the sociopolitical situation with the lives of the people he interacted with, mapped out the effects of economic changes on people's lives, it could have been very insightful Instead, he frittered away all the resources at his disposal, playing fast and loose with journalistic objectivity in the process The later chapters actually cover some very fascinating topics, from encounter killings and the lives of Mumbai city cops to beer bars, and the lives of bar dancers there Mehta has managed to learn about their lives to an extent that most people would not be able to And things get interesting for a while But then, he gets back to his own self, in the chapter Memory Mines, and his voice familiar and obnoxious washes over you once again. And you just want to kill him all over again. It may have been 25 years since he graduated from school, but he shows none of the maturity you'd expect from an alumnus of so many years, when he goes back to his school His schoolboy's resentment disguised as contempt for toppers is amply showcased in his hateful passage on stateexaminations:..Shortly after the state examinations were out, the photographs of the toppers would appear in the newspapers, in ads for the coaching classes where they had toiled night and day They wore thick glasses and looked enervated from frequent masturbation None of them were smiling at their triumph They didn't look like they'd smiled in a month And they were almost all of them destined to be parked on bureaucrats' chairs, in government and in corporations, to make life hell for all the rest of us who goofed off in school, went out dancing, and generally had been arousing their envy from kindergarten. Now, if THIS passage coming from someone 25 years after they've left school isn't hateful and immature, I don't know what is Mehta goes on, in his last chapter, to discuss a Jain family who takes diksha But by this time, I was just waiting for the book to end, so I could just go to sleep without my OCD consuming me about having left a book unfinished To sum up, I may have been irritated with authors before, but none have made me THIS ANGRY before, for the entire duration for which I was reading their book (OK, so Durjoy Dutta might be close competition here, but at least the nonsense he writes is fiction, it lays no claim to being factual And, as an aside, in my defence, I only read the one Durjoy Dutta book because it was a birthday present!) Mumbai is a fascinating city i can not say that i ever liked it too big, too chaotic but i felt drawn to understand it Mehta give a lovely view of the interesting and intriguing stories of the city. I had heard about the book for a while now but just managed to pick the book few months ago at the airport during a business trip I loved the book mostly because I am from bombay as well and just like Suketu, I have moved to Bombay and back few times in my life Everything in the book was very real for me and there were times when it felt like he literally took words out of my mouth I would highly recommend this book to Indophiles, Travel readers and even history buffs There are few things I would like to critique about this book :A) I think the author's style of writing comes too close to V.S.Naipaul's style and he admits in the prologue that he did prepare for ths book by reading lots of V.S.Naipaul I am not totally turned off by it because VS Naipaul happens to be one of my favorite authors too but it may be offputting for other readers B) At about two thirds into the book I suddenly developed fatigue and found myself skipping pages and sections till I found something that picked up my interest For example I found it bit tiring when he goes on and on about the bar girls and at times the narrative became extremely draggy.I then jumped to the bollywood sections and the momentum picked up.C) The mood of the book swings wildy from humor to tragedy to violence and at times even engages in sensationalism that I began questioning the truth in the narration But the narrative bounces back by redeeming itself after those brief spells of incredulity.D) Even though the book is supposed to be nonfiction I found the author very manipulative in style like a fictional story teller For example he keeps the dates of his encounters with the characters bit nebulous and goes back and forth to some characters using their quotes mixing it with his own commentary to present a very romanticized or sensational story that mirrors his own personal view on the subject For example it tends to reinforce the stereo types that most of us may agree with such as Generally the mafia in bombay are most Muslims, Gujaratis are business minded, Hindu criminals though equally bad are slight better because they suffer from guilt and are god fearing, Bollywood stars and directors are shallow and superficial, Bombay is a filth pit of pollution and shit etc This paints some of the characters and situation in bad light without telling you all the sides of the story Its this style that makes the book seem like fiction at times and honestly for some maybe even the charm of the book It may also be that perhaps he had lot of research material to sift thru but he deliberately selected the stories to suit his hidden agenda of coming up with a best seller for the international audience And he chooses his stories based on his own personal convictions rather than telling them objectively purely from the character's view point I read somewhere that after the book was published his relationship with one of the bollywood characters in the book (Vinod the director) soured and they are estranged now I personally dont care about this since I am from bombay and consider myself knowledgeable enough to seperate fact from fiction, I just wanted to caution the readers here: Beware the author is extremely intelligent writer and if he manages to manipulate your consciousness and sway your opinions, then its intentional And maybe that only indicates that he is an extremely good writer More power to him in that case:)I sincerely hope that this book encouragessouth asians to adopt this style and genre of writing and we get to readinteresting books on India which is itself on the dawn of transformation and progress There are millions of fascinating stories and live drama occurring in the streets of india every day that just needs to be captured in a medium that the world may find fascinating and can watch or read about in this century Don't be surprised if this book is made into a movie or documentary. A native of Bombay, Suketu Mehta gives us an insider’s view of this stunning metropolis He approaches the city from unexpected angles, taking us into the criminal underworld of rival Muslim and Hindu gangs; following the life of a bar dancer raised amid poverty and abuse; opening the door into the inner sanctums of Bollywood; and delving into the stories of the countless villagers who come in search of a better life and end up living on the sidewalks As someone who grew up in the 90s in Mumbai, I lived in my middle class bubble, broken only by the riots and the rampant street sexual harassment I watched the city take a rebirth with a new name, just one of a renaming spree around the country But though I knew that there were things going on, they were just somewhere out there and nothing to do with me With Maximum City, Suketu Mehta brings those 'things' right under your nose making them hard to ignore.Maximum City is about the shadow world of Mumbai, the place where politicians and gangsters, filmmakers and dance bar girls, the police and the public, all gather to feed off each other's negative traits The book is divided into three parts The first deals with power namely, the hold of Shiv Sena, Mumbai's political and labour history, as well as the corruption in the police force The Mumbai riots of 92 and the complicity of the political parties as well as the police was investigated and presented in detail The gangsters, the gang wars, and their interplay with politicians and the police is also explored.Then comes the pleasure section, where Mehta talks about the restaurant businesses, the dance bars, and Bollywood Here, he takes up with a bar girl and develops a semicrush on her Hope his wife doesn't read this book! And finally, Bollywood and its struggles with the underworld and the government also makes it to these pages There are a lot of other titbits in these pages as well One of my personal favourites is about the Jain family which took deeksha together This was a fine work of investigative journalism and Mehta took risks as he cavorted around with gangsters and policemen I read some negative reviews of the book by other Indians, and it was amusing to see how they were all about how Mehta was against Hinduism and India Well, the underworld was strong in the 90s and there was religious discord They were tough times Deal with it! Living in an elite bubble doesn't make Mehta wrong or negate those lives which were lived under these circumstances Today, those dance bars are shut down, the underworld is mostly wiped out, and the 90s is long gone I have also moved out Butandpeople still pour into Mumbai The book should be of interest to anyone interested in Mumbai Just remember that it's only one aspect of life in the city the darker side I keep wondering what happened today to these people Mehta chronicled in these pages That speaks to the excellence of Maximum City It made me care about the characters, real as they are.

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