Mumbai: The Indian writer’s New York
Via BBC News
Bangalore may be a kinetic technology hub teeming with expatriates and bright young Indians, Calcutta a decaying dowager brimming with a million stories, and Delhi the capital where power meets noir.
But cosmopolitan, energetic and chaotic Mumbai, where the rich live cheek-by-jowl with the poor, is the city where the story-tellers from Rushdie to Vikram Chandra to Kiran Nagarkar to Joseph are turning for inspiration and fodder.
“Of late, Mumbai seems to have definitely taken over [in the number of stories being told]. It’s like the city is teeming with stories just waiting to be picked up. Or maybe it’s do with the number of immigrant writers who’ve made it their home and as new immigrants, are constantly taking stock of their new environment,” says VK Karthika, chief editor of Harper Collins, which published Serious Men in India.
Joseph, who grew up in Chennai and came to Mumbai to work as a journalist, says one reason is the city is a great setting for novels is that it has “all sorts of people from all kinds of places”. “Every character which lives anywhere in India has a clone in Bombay. The city can absorb everything, and as long as your characters are real it does not make them look awkward,” says Joseph.
Salman Rushdie, whose sensational Midnight’s Children and The Moor’s Last Sigh have many moments in Mumbai, once said: “When writers fall in love with cities, they often don’t fall in love with cities, in general. They often fall in love with the city at a particular point in time.”
So the Mumbai of 1950s in which Rushdie grew up finds a strong resonance in his novels.
The city doesn’t inspire fiction alone – one of the best non- fiction books to come out of India is Suketu Mehta’s Maximum City, a gripping exploration of the city’s turbulent heart.
“There will soon be more people living in the city of Bombay than on the continent of Australia… Bombay is the future of human civilisation. God help us,” Mehta wrote.
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