Goodbye, Mr. Mehta (Suketu, if I may).
The last month and a half has been rather nice in your company. Don’t raise your eyebrows yet for that month and a half bit. Your lovely book is not slow; I’m a working mother to a 19-month old… you get the picture.
Incidentally, my son, Jishnu, turned 19 months today, and you’re the only one I’ve allowed into my very precious ‘me time’ – something I’ve not had in nearly two years.
And while I took you along on my pleasurable, almost stolen, reading excursions, you took me along on the journey to discovering the city that I’ve made home a little over a year ago...
As always, I've refrained from reading any book reviews for that terrible fear of bias. But you, dear Suketu, probably made it to my bookshelf because people have spoken enough about your book. Never the one to go after talked-about books, I picked you up as the cheap guide to this city of dreams and nightmares. I was wrong. You didn't talk very much about the Mumbai you've lived in; you talked about the Mumbai that lived in you - that lives in different ways in all of us.
Through your explorations of the history, economics, politics, crime, entertainment, love, lust, desperation and renunciation of Bombay, you did what all good books do - touched the reader. You enticed and terrified an outsider like me with rivetting stories of people, who are so like me, yet not. One phrase from the book that has remained with me is "shouted lives." The exaggeration that Mumbai is of everything, condenses beautifully in those two words. The hurry and the heartbreak that the city offers to those who come into its seemingly magnaimous fold, is multiplied many times over.
An Ajay Lal, a Girish, a Monalisa, a Sunil, a Honey or a Sevantilal - all are in me, as much as they are probably in you. But you have to be born and raised here in this garishness to find its loveliness. A mellower small town person simply finds these theatrics overwhelming. In the city, where Bollywood lives, the lines between art and life seem blurred. One forgets who inspires what. Or perhaps in this rapid barter, the individual ceases to exist. Ceases, until he accepts the mass of humanity pressing in around him all the time, and then proceeds to carve out his precious inches.
I am maintaining my distances still. I am fighting this siren that they have renamed Mumbai. Although you showed me some faces of the real Mumbaikar, they're as lovable and alien to me as characters on the silver screen. I shall take my time to find my Mumbai.