Breathless — just like Shankar Mahadevan’s song — is what this book left me feeling. Just like Mumbai makes us feel most of the time. Ministry of Hurt Sentiments by Altaf Tyrewala celebrates the dystopia that is modern-day Mumbai, the blurb reads.
‘Thank god for Monday mornings’, the book begins talking to you, ‘Andheri is dotted with hills of filth and crushed plastic’, the verses go on to remind you about the journey from a one-room-kitchen that you shared with your joint family, to the brand new two bedroom flat ‘on the eight-floor of a thirty-floor tower’ constructed on ‘a land reclaimed from a miffed sea’.
The writer mentions Andheri is dotted with hills of filth and plastic. Pic for representational only
The book touches upon every topic under the Mumbai sun — Ganesh the tea stall owner attempts suicide after his stall is razed to accommodate a new bus stop near the new hospital. Five months on, he ends up at the same hospital after attempting suicide. After one failed attempt, he lies between the tracks of two fast trains. ‘Even when you have nothing to eat/Because the future has belly that can never be filled’. There are all kinds of people here, who want something that is missing in their lives. Koel, the adopted “black girl” is pregnant at 16 and commits suicide by jumping off.
‘That’s how it works in this collectivist city/One person picking up where the other left off/someone jumps… someone else dies/the one who receives… is not the one who asked/But someone always lives, receives, eats…’
Ministry Of Hurt Sentiments Rs 299 Published by Random House India
All of a sudden we are brought to the sorry state of toilets. ‘You’ve got to be shameless to relieve your bladder/turn your back to the street and unzip against the wall’. The walls are alive with gods, and while at it, ‘On the other side of the wall stands the Ministry of Hurt Sentiments. Members from the office of Frantic Fanatics descend on your home, castrate you and ‘piss on you like you were a wall’.
The book touches upon brokers, elections that come with jammed voting machines, foreigners strolling at Colaba and Biharis and 9/11 to Hindu Muslim rifts and of course, politics. The writer questions, what is it about this ‘traffic-choked accident by the coast’ that makes you want to return to it. Is it in wonder how ‘things haven’t yet gone under’? The book highlights the dark shades of the city, and by the end, it leaves the head buzzing. A good read, but only when you are in the mood to re-digest the truth.