Saturday, January 13, 2007
Now reading... (with thanks to Lotus)
Maximum City: Bombay Lost and Found by Suketu Mehta (originally discovered by way of Lotus Reads). So far, while certainly educational, the reading is almost like following the adventures in a novel. Excellent.
Mumbai (what was once called Bombay) is, in a strange way, a model city. It is an example of what can happen when too many people and too rapid expansion occur with too little foresight. And foresight is not a strong characteristic of governments or political parties anywhere in the world. Thus, Mumbai reminds me of examples of futuristic cities in some science fiction novels: A place where events have gotten ahead of themselves, where additional layers are added onto faulty foundations, where great technological advances and unimaginable poverty exist side by side, where space is at a premium and dependable infrastructure at a minium, where crime is often the only way to improvement, where the crucial necessity of water is difficult to come by and often contaminated, where those who work tirelessly for improvement are met with impossible odds. Where giving up and throwing up one's hands would be easier than battling what must seem inevitable. It is an example that the world should be paying attention to if there is to be hope for the future. For many of the problems this Maximum City faces exist all over the world...in incipient form and in smaller locations. Mumbai is a wake-up call of sorts.
Mehta's voice is comfortable, skilled, ironic, witty. I'm reading about events that have escaped my notice in my comfortable suburban world, but that have had huge effects on millions of people in Bombay. I'm reading with more comprehension than might have expected because Mehta manages to balance the humanity, the history, and the political so well.
Again, I read non-fiction much slower than fiction; yet, each time I pick up this book, my hands eagerly seek out my place, and I'm soon immersed in Mehta's Bombay.