Monday, April 03, 2006

Salman Rushdie and Suketu Mehta 

Finished reading Satanic Verses after being on the lookout for this book a long time. Halfway thru the book, I had this vague feeling that something was missing, that something has been snipped out. Turns out I was right. The version of the book I had read did not have a complete chapter (read a chapterwise critique of the book on the net to verify this). Anyway....
Salman Rushdies' strength is in the emotions invoked by his long-winding sentences about everyday things. I particularly enjoyed The Moor's Last Sigh and Satanic Verses because of the evocative passages about Mumbai. I've heard that Midnight's Children is even better in the Mumbai nostalgia but I'll have to read the book to comment.
Of course, Mumbai in this case is South Mumbai which I have practically nothing to do with. For me, it's just another place like Paris or Tokyo except for the faintly tangiable effect of having been there a few dozen times in my life. The roads, streets, shops mentioned in the book are real in that sense.

Another interesting Mumbai book is Maximum City: Bombay Lost and Found by Suketu Mehta. Simple language, lucid thoughts, and (mostly) recognizable faces. Never imagined a non-fiction book could be so incisive in its portrayal of the many faces of Mumbai. The author is an ex-South Mumbaikar who had a long spell in New York and has decided to decimate the chaos that's Mumbai for his understanding once he got back. And came up with the book in the process. Worth a read.

2 books, 2 authors, 2 very different ways of writing and yet somehow... the vast canvas of ordinariness and larger-than-life characters in Rushdie's novel are no match for the extra-ordinary, yet common-place, way of living of the real-life characters of Mehta's book.



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