Saturday, August 9, 2008

Mumbai Mélange

Shinie Antony
Saturday, August 09, 2008 23:02 IST

Urban Voice 3 Bombay: New Writing
Frog Books
182 pages

There is a clamouring din out there, many voices are shrilling, the blind groping the elephant are confusing it with its tail or trunk. City-specific perspectives can make an interesting collage as never-before angles loom to the fore, dark corners are lit and one is forced to pursue visions otherwise disturbing or baffling.

A cross between a magazine and book, Urban Voice 3 zips through the much-maligned, much-adored city, well, maligning and adoring. Monideepa Sahu’s ‘Going Home In The Rain’ rides an auto through the menacing monsoons, from a crowded railway platform to a plate of hot samosas with mint chutney. “It was good to be home,” she tells us.

And Mumbai is home to millions from all over the world. They have adapted to its potholes and rains and crowds and the last local and a description of any of these may not evoke the right level of awe. These are a given, an almost endearing trait of an adopted or natural terrain. To have, however articulately forwarded, view after view dwell on karma, train travails and the overflowing drains can feel a bit repetitive despite the undeniable fact that they are true. Mumbai as a concept can stand deconstruction, but may barely be able to brave the clichés coming its way.

Thankfully, there are multiple inflections here; from the familiar landmarks like the Gateway of India to the subtle nuances of a newly-christened cowardice, the searchlight sways in its focus. Rajender Menen’s ‘Love And Deliverance In Kamathipura’ ducks into an alley where Tara twinkles among the debauched, destroyed lives around her. Jane Bhandari stirs this Mumbai mélange when she says in ‘Meri Jaan’: “Mumbai is Bombay/Sounds fatter to me”.

Perhaps it is the format — of mixing stories with essays and even an interview where we are twice informed of Sudeep Sen’s website and his poetry collection is alternately called ‘Postmaked India’ and ‘Postmarked India’ — that disorients. When Urban Voice “aims to capture the thrilling transformation (in India’s literary scene) by creating a platform for thinkers to capture ‘next-in-line’ trends and go beyond”, expectations prise open this big ugly maw.

The reviewer is a novelist.

No comments: