Missing The Hustle-Bustle Of The City? 10 Books Every Mumbaikar Should Read Now

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    Bombay - it's not a just a city name, it's a feeling, an emotion. The joy of sipping cutting chai at Marine Drive during monsoons. The anger of not being able to get down at the Dadar station. The frustration of not getting a taxi or a rickshaw. The immense pleasure of getting a great deal while street shopping. Well, these are emotions which only a true Mumbaikar can relate to.

    Here are some books (rather, hidden gems) which celebrate the essence on Bombay while portraying the city’s madness:

    Bombay Balchao by Jane Borges

    This pleasant book from Jane Borges, a Mumbai-based journalist, comes off as a fresh air about ordinary lives in Bombay, tying in people of different ages, professions, and forms of livelihood together, with the central character of the book being the city itself. With layers of bittersweet history with bits and bobs of joy, humour, love and longing, this one is a personal favourite.

    Breathless In Bombay by Murzban F. Shroff

    If you claim to love the energy of Bombay, Breathless in Bombay is a book you must get your hands on. This collection of short stories, amuses, entertains, shocks but at the core of it, depicts this undulating city in all its honesty. 14 stories each delve into the lives of 14 different characters, be it a massage person on Marine Drive, a peddler, a laundry-man.

    I, The Salt Doll by Vandana Mishra And Jerry Pinto

    Jerry Pinto, the author who in his novel Em and The Big Hoom, rattled the bars which constrained the topic of mental illness has also done a translation of the autobiographical work by theatre personality and Marathi actor Vandana Mishra. While this translation does take you to a Bombay which belongs to the past, with the story largely based in Girgaon in the ’70’s, it is never a Bombay that you won’t recognise.

    Murder In Mahim by Jerry Pinto

    Published by Speaking Tiger, this noir mystery will make your hair stand on end and get you deeper and deeper into the narrative as you keep reading. It revolves primarily around the gay addas in Bombay pairing it with crime and murder mystery. Pinto has a very poetic understanding of the realities of Bombay which is succinctly seen in this fabulous book.

    Narcopolis by Jeet Thayil

    Feelings towards Narcopolis are usually strongly divided, either you fall in love with the rich, heavy, opium-laden prose or you feel distaste for it. Jeet Thayil’s novel portrays Bombay with all the luster and filth that it encompasses, and as it was in the 1970s.

    Family Matters by Rohinton Mistry

    A portrait of Bombay from the early 2000s, Mistry has put forward his observations about family drama and presented Bombay in a bigger picture, covering aspects of its thriving growth and specks of corruption and immorality. He has based the story around his protagonist Nariman (the name also inspired by Bombay) and his life in the later years of old age.

    A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry

    Mistry has put his own experiences into this book which portrays Bombay in the 70s and 80s. From migrant’s experiences and inclusion of a myriad of cultures and the meeting of people from different walks of life only by chance, he has painted the true essence of Bombay, the poetic randomness with deeper meanings.

    Baumgartner’s Bombay by Anita Desai

    A colourful narration of a tragic story about a Jew who loses his family to the Nazi regime and finds himself stuck into another war altogether when he comes to Bombay, Baumgartner’s Bombay shows Mumbai through the naked perspective of an old man who wanders around tea shops and then comes across a  hippie young German woman who transforms his life. Based in influential cities: Bombay being the centre point of change, this one is a must read.

    The Moor’s Last Sigh by Salman Rushdie

    This novel by Salman Rushdie settles into its pages the tale of a dysfunctional family living in old Bombay, spanning over a few generations. As with all his works, the language is evocative, passionate and just a tiny bit mad.

    Love And Longing In Bombay by Vikram Chandra

    Love & Longing in Bombay has five stories set in this maximum city, each different window opening up to different sides of Bombay. Each of the stories is narrated by one protagonist as he lounges at a cheap local bar. The stories are mostly set around the wide roads of SoBo, which will interest you if you have a special likeness to this part of town.