STRAIGHT OUT OF A BOOK

A book can take you to many places, but see­ing is be­liev­ing. Here’s a look at the lo­cales of Mum­bai to com­pare them with their de­scrip­tions in five books

HT Cafe - - Lifestyle - Navneet Vyasan ht.cafe@hin­dus­tan­times.com

was­cen­tral;all­rivers flowed­in­toit­shu­mansea.It wasanoceanof­s­to­ries;wewere al­lit­snar­ra­tors,an­de­v­ery­body talkeda­tonce.” Sal­man Rushdie’s The Moor’s Last Sigh is set in Mum­bai, and the story re­volves around the Zo­goiby fam­ily. At one point in the novel, the char­ac­ters make it ev­i­dent that they find the Ele­phanta Caves un­in­ter­est­ing.

It is not sur­pris­ing that one of the coun­try’s old­est and rich­est cities has served as an im­por­tant back­drop for sto­ries across the ages. It never mat­tered if an au­thor vis­ited the city for a day or if they spent all their lives in it. Mum­bai, some­how, has in­flu­enced writ­ers to imag­ine their char­ac­ters as one of the mil­lions that in­habit this crowded city.

What is it that makes the city ir­re­sistible for artists? Why couldn’t Saa­dat Hasan Manto let go of Mum­bai, “Elepanta Is­land was noth­ing, a hilly lump in the har­bour,” the book reads. I felt so too when I first vis­ited the is­land as a child. On my visit, I came across a man sell­ing posters on the way to the top. One par­tic­u­lar poster r stood out: the cover of this very book. The hawker doesn’t know who Rushdie is, but an­other hawker knows who the au­thor is.s. He’s sur­prised when I tell him Ele­phanta fea­tures in one of Rushdie’s books, but not enough to keep him from try­ing to sell me a lighter. even af­ter he left In­dia for Pak­istan? What is it that Gre­gory David Roberts saw in the city that makes him come back over and over? It’s hard to an­swer such ques­tions while sit­ting in a room with a thought­ful book, but a stroll through the streets de­scribed in the very same texts can prove quite en­light­en­ing. Herein, HT Café vis­its some fa­mous lo­cales de­scribed in five great books set in Mum­bai to find out what has changed since the time they were im­mor­talised.

NAVY NA­GAR SLUM: GRE­GORY DAVID ROBERTS’ SHANTARAM

first im­pres­sion was that some catas­tro­phe had taken place.” That’s how Gre­gory David Roberts felt when he first saw Mum­bai’s slums. These very slums would go on to change his life for­ever. A fugi­tive from Aus­tralia, Roberts finds a home in Mum­bai’s slums. As you walk through the nar­row lanes be­tween the chawls of the Navy Na­gar slums Gre­gory called home, si­lence de­scends, and be­fore you know it, you’re in­side a dark al­ley that screams “This is a dif­fer­ent world!” It is 2017 now, but those lanes re­mem­ber their his­tory; they speak, tell you sto­ries about the past and the lives they have wit­nessed over the years. The place still ex­udes what Roberts wrote about years ago: re­li­gious and cul­tural tol­er­ance. Peo­ple knew what I was here for as they saw me walk­ing through those dingy lanes with my cam­era. Soon, a young man ap­proached, say­ing, “For­eigner? Ha yahi re­hte the. Aao mai le chalta hu.” Speak­ing about Roberts, the young man, who in­tro­duced him­self as Neeraj Ku­mar, said, “He has helped us a lot — from ed­u­ca­tion to our stan­dard of liv­ing, things have changed around us be­cause of him. I’ve seen him twice, but my mother says he changed the per­cep­tion of the chawl for­ever.”

CLARE ROAD: SAA­DAT HASAN MANTO’S BOM­BAY STO­RIES

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