Book review: Ministry of Hurt Sentiments

Sep 28, 2012, 11:44 IST | Lindsay Pereira

In the eyes of this critic, there is little Altaf Tyrewala can do wrong.

This notion was born approximately seven years ago, with the publication of his debut novella No God in Sight. It took him a few years to follow that by editing an anthology for the Noir series, collating stories that explored Mumbai’s underbelly.

It was a perfect role because Tyrewala is a writer who revels in the seamy side of things. It’s also why his latest book, described by his publisher as a ‘genre-bending work’, inadvertently goes on to celebrate ‘the dystopia that is modern-day Mumbai.’ In short, another perfect fit.

— Ministry Of Hurt Sentiments, Altaf Tyrewala, HarperCollins, Rs 299

Sample this, from a section titled ‘On the granite floor of the global market’: ‘War is an Aquaguard salesman. He stands on the street across your building, And looks up at your flat with the absorption of a gravedigger who’s trying to estimate what size holes will be needed in the event that you and your kin consume rat poison, to spare you the ignominy of impending eviction when you committed to that thirty-year home mortgage.’

To try and categorise this writing by genre is to do it a disservice. The late poet Arun Kolatkar, Hinglish, maids, cabbies, religion — all come together in the writer’s struggle to make sense of a city that can no longer be defined in cookie-cutter terms. Please read it in one sitting.

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