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India’s Maximum City

VAWN HIMMELSBACH, Chic Savvy Travels VAWN HIMMELSBACH, Chic Savvy Travels

Don’t let this book scare you away from India. Aside from some fine investigative journalism, Maximum City is possibly one of the most insightful forays into modern-day Mumbai — and, by extension, India.

In Maximum City, Suketu Mehta’s portrait of Bombay (and a 2005 Pulitzer Prize finalist), we discover the “biggest, fastest, richest city in India.” Mehta, a journalist who now lives in New York, returns to the city of his youth after a 21-year absence to investigate the Hindu-Muslim riots of 1992-1993. What he finds is a city lost and found.

According to Mehta, Bombay — now referred to as Mumbai — has always had multiple aliases, “as do gangsters and whores.” And this book is essential reading into what makes the city tick, from hitmen to bar girls to dirty politicians.

It’s the kind of city where plumbers bribe officials to turn off the water to public taps so people have to pay for private pipes. Extortion payments are so commonplace they’re actually a tax writeoff. Here, it’s often hard to tell the difference between the good guys and the bad guys.

This is a city of stark constrasts, from extreme poverty to Bollywood glam. In a city of 20 million people, 30 per cent live in the slums, and 200 families move here every day — from Pakistan, Bangladesh and rural parts of India — in search of a better life.

This isn’t the Eat, Pray, Love version of India, or the kind you see in Bollywood flicks. “India is not a tourist-friendly country,” writes Suketa Mehta. “It will reveal itself to you only if you stay on, against all odds.”

And that’s why I love this book. Some of it is disturbing, some graphic in nature, but Mehta also manages to find humour and humanity and even hope — against all odds — that this lost city will eventually find its way.

Copyright @ 2013 Chic Savvy Travels

Date Added: June 1, 2013 | Comments (0)

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