Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers
"Bombay is the future of urban civilization on the planet. God help us," writes Mehta, in this startling, provocative look at "the biggest, fastest, richest city in India." Mehta spent much of his childhood in Bombay (now Mumbai) before moving to New York with his family. As an adult, he returned there only to be confounded as he sought to reconcile the city of his youth with the teeming, filthy, and yet sometimes alluringly exotic metropolis before him.
What he finds is a city where one always waits in line, yet one is always in a hurry. Where one cannot function without complicity in an intricate system of bribery. Where one must learn (precisely) in which place commuters must stand to exit a train, lest they be trampled by the hordes rushing into the car before it speeds away.
Through Mehta's eyes, readers observe the individuals who call Bombay home, including the writer himself. We meet a dancer who works in Bombay's sex industry and a director navigating the complex world of Bollywood. Corrupt officials parade by, as do gang members who nonchalantly affirm their murderous pasts. As a traveler to Bombay, Mehta felt he was watching the "extreme" of life. Fortunately, readers can share his wildly entrancing journey back "home" from the comfort of their own, more tranquil households. (Holiday 2004 Selection)
Modern Bombay is home to fourteen million people, two-thirds of them packed into neighborhoods where the population density reaches one million per square mile. Its official name is now Mumbai, but, as the author points out, the city has always had “multiple aliases, as do gangsters and whores.” Mehta, who lived there as a child, has a penchant for the city’s most “morally compromised” inhabitants: the young Hindu mafiosi who calmly recollect burning Muslims alive during riots twelve years ago; the crooked policeman who stages “encounter killings” of hoods whose usefulness has expired; the bar girl, adorned with garlands of rupees, whose arms are scarred from suicide attempts. Mehta’s brutal portrait of urban life derives its power from intimacy with his subjects. After clandestine meetings with some of Bombay’s most wanted assassins, he notes, “I know their real names, what they like to eat, how they love, what their precise relationship is with God.”