The Bom-books tour!
Discover this city through 11 fiction titles that let you experience the decadence of Parsi-run cafes and the sweaty crowds at CSMT, without leaving your home
ANDHERI, A Village Dies by Ivan Arthur
This is a delicious, but unfortunately forgotten novel about the Roman Catholic residents of the villages of Amboli and the adjoining Kevni pada in Andheri West. Arthur, who lived here, before moving to Goa, gives us an insider's view of the different community dynamics. While it's a fictional retelling of the many stories and people, who came to give this place its character, at its core, the book is a funeral song of the two vibrant Catholic villages, now a shadow of their former glory.
MAHALAXMI, Breathless in Bombay by Murzban F Shroff
The iconic Dhobi Ghat and its washermen come alive in the pages of Murzban F Shroff's story. The ghat, as Shroff describes, is an arid hill, at the foot of which was the washing area. "Long, cement grouted into the ground, and parallel to the tanks were the tubs where the clothes were soaked before washing," he writes. It's the tale of the community of dhobis, and how the realty boom threatens their existence.
PAREL, Coming Back to the City: Mumbai Stories by Anuradha Kumar
This novel plays out in Parel's Jupiter Mills chawl, one of the few remnants of erstwhile Bombay, taking us through different class dynamics in a city that is growing vertically. From a homemaker, who finds happiness in a dabba service, to a lonely radiologist, and a dubious politician, the characters liven up a web of inter-connected short stories. At the heart, it's the tale about a city of mills and malls, where land is always at a premium.
Bandra, Paper Moon by Rehana Munir
This sweet coming-of-age novel is the story of a fresh-out-of-college Bandra girl, living her bookshop dream, when she gets a tidy sum after her estranged father's death. The novel is also part travelogue, as it takes us through the gorgeous Bandra suburb—from the "grotty" Yacht Bar on Hill Road, the charming walkways on Carter Road to Bandstand, and A1 Bakery and Vienna Store, "where the faithful bought bread and eggs."
MALABAR HILL, Midnight's Children by Salman Rushdie
Rushdie's novel traces the life of Salim Sinai, a boy who embodies the pre- and post Partition India. He captures Bombay's cosmopolitan spirit as it climbs out of colonial rule. Salim's home is set in Methwold's—William Methwold was a merchant, who identified the site for Bombay—sprawling estate, possibly situated somewhere in Malabar Hill. Some of the other interesting cityscapes, include the iconic Metro Cinema, where Salim watches the Metro Cub Club films during Ramzan.
NAGPADA, Siraj by Saadat Hasan Manto
In this poignant short story, Manto recalls his tryst with commercial sex worker Siraj, a slim and pretty girl who has caused her brothel madam, Dhondoo, much grief, because she is obstinate and refuses to "play ball" with the men she brings her. Manto, in the story, also negotiates through the world of prostitutes and pimps, and the infamous red-light areas of Lamington Road, Foras (Faras) Road, and the nearby Khetwadi.
CHURCHGATE, Mehboob Murderer by Nupur Anand
In this murder mystery, six people are gunned down on a rainy September night in an old Parsi-run café called Mehboob in Churchgate. That it is located a few hundred metres from the police station, and next to one of the busiest railway stations in Mumbai, leaves the city rattled. Anand's sleuth is Inspector Abbas, who has before him the challenge of making sense of a murky mess.
MAHIM, Em and The Big Hoom by Jerry Pinto
This partly autobiographical, stellar debut is the poignant story of a Goan couple and their two children, living in her tiny apartment in Mahim. Em, the mother, grapples with bipolar disorder that has a swinging between moments of euphoria and painful lows, which take a toll on her relationship with every member, especially her husband, Big Hoom. It's a story about love, family, and the frailty of the mind. Pinto's other novel, Murder in Mahim, is a noir mystery set in the same neighbourhood, portraying its grittier side.
A romance galvanised in a fast-changing Bombay, Mahale's novel, which is set in the early 1990s during the early years of liberlisation, is the story of Ira Kamat and Kartik Kini, who have grown up in the same building in the middle-class neighbourhood of Matunga, now facing redevelopment. Ira, a feisty journalist covering the civic beat, is still grappling with memories of an old flame, when Kartik, her childhood love, who enjoys a secure job with an MNC, makes a proposition, which could change their lives. This novel will bring back many memories, of a city capable of loving and hating, equally.
FORT, Saraswati Park by Anjali Joseph
While Joseph's 2010 novel is set in a housing colony in suburban Mumbai, she also brilliantly re-imagines the old, bustling district of Fort. Her protagonist, Mohan is a middle-aged letter writer, who sits under a banyan tree, writing missives for migrants and lovers. The plot keeps shifting back to the suburban colony, where Mohan lives with his wife and nephew Ashish, portraying an interesting dichotomy of city life.
MAZAGAON, Ravan and Eddie by Kiran Nagarkar
Set in a CWD chawl in Mazagaon of the 1950s, this comical novel, which went on to become a trilogy series, revolves around Ravan, a Marathi Hindu, and Eddie, a Roman Catholic. The two weren't destined to be friends, because if Eddie's mum is to be believed, Ravan is a murderer who killed his father, while he was still in her womb. But, both are connected to the hip, by this chawl, which sets the stage for a life that will make them inseparable allies.
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