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Bambai , Mumbai and More
Jun 21, 2004 09:10 AM 4786 Views
(Updated Jun 21, 2004 09:11 AM)



Having read one of Pinki Virani;s earlier work ? Aruna?s story? , I had no doubt about her journalistic and writing skills. So when I chanced upon this book at the book store, and on reading the synopsis and shuffling thru a couple of pages , I made up my mind to buy It. Though I was pretty sure, my wife would lecture me on the weird kind of books that I read.. And by buying Once Was Bombay, I have added to that weird list.

Now, to answer the next question of what this book is all about? Well I ll say that there is no proper way to define it , at least there?s no such word in my vocabulary , Maybe tongue-in-cheek can help here ;-)

This is investigative journalism, notes of a journalist, chapters woven out of real incidents of Mumbai, once Bombay. The outpour of the authors feelings for the city, a chronicle of what all has gone wrong with the city etc etc and more!

When I had written my review on Bombay city here on Mouthshut , I had used the opening lines of the movie Satya to start the review and I wrote that in a way those lines describe the city in the best way . In this book the Author makes use of the Hit Song ? Goli Maar Bheje main? many times in the book. Makes m wonder , is Satya the real definition of Bombay. RGV has done a great job , must say. But this is beside the point ;-)

A book of about 200 odd pages, and 4-5 chapters, which may be read separately attempts to take the reader to feel the pulse of the city. The author has tried to take the reader thru the backdoors of each of the thing which comes to mind when one thinks of Bombay

1) Crime ? Underworld aka the world of pakya ,

2) Bollwood ? The life in and out of it

3) The Glitterati : The unche log

4) The Life in a chawl

And thru the lives of each of the characters picked from life , she manages to show us the face of a city ,that , With all its problems Is bubble waiting to burst. Rather we can say , has burst many times , and is now a bubble that is punctured and repaired every day and night.

Readers who are from Bombay , will easily connect with the incidents , happenings of the book. And for the others it should be revelation. Though, non Hindi speaking people may face some difficulty in understanding some parts in the book. Specially the gallis [;-)] although the author has tried her level best to translate them to English, some of the bombaiya words are tooo hard to decipher .

Citing real examples , by taking the recent history of the city as a backdrop , the author shows how rampant corruption , use of ganstersim in politics and the high profile social circuit , fanning of religious fanaticism has bought the city to this level. And how we , the middle class who neither feel , nor are felt for have given up hope, and also do nothing to stand up and make themselves heard.

The emphasis, to prove that the majority of the people are always subject to injustice, trouble, pain, inconvenience, and all other similar meaning words that can be added here by the minority few. [There is no religious connotation to the words majority and minority used here. They are purely used to convey numbers.] . And by the minority few, The author does not hold the upper strata of the society to guilt every time.

The treatment melted out is fair and unbiased, cutting across the social and economic barriers. She loathes the rich for including and abetting the people with criminal or sinister minds in their circle , and at the same time shuns the poor , [ jhopadpati ] people who let their children roam freely on the railway tracks and attack and assault the motorman and bring the city to a halt , when the poor thing meets bad fate.

How a group 10-12 of Shiv Sainiks can blacken faces , destroy property and adhere to humiliating ways of protest. And the law simply blames it on Mob mentality and pleads helplessness. And how , the people who want to live , respect the law , lead a clean life are forced to give in to the negative forces.

The books also gives a good insight in the evolution of Bombay as a city, citing historical data . the old names of the places and how the new modern names of so many places we know are connected to them. Most of the trivia is a pleasure to read.

The incidents that cover the book are so close to being fiction , that you almost can read off the book thinking it to be fiction, but when you read the Names of Verru Devgan , Inspector Vijay Salaskar , Chaggan Bhujbal , and some obvious references to certain people , you will know that this is not fiction .

Though this book is not a work of literary or journalistic marvel to be a treasured possesion. It is good enough for a read. And it is fast paced enough to be done with in a couple of days.

But sadly , that is what we all will do. Read and Forget. And Things remain Same. Shame Shame.

PS : Its been so long since I wrote a review. Think I lost touch. lol.

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Once Was Bombay - Pinki Virani