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Maximum City: Bombay Lost and Found

3.91  ·  Rating Details ·  7,759 Ratings  ·  594 Reviews
A brilliantly illuminating portrait of Bombay and its people–a book as vast, diverse, and rich in experience, incident, and sensation as the city itself–from an award-winning Indian-American fiction writer and journalist.

A native of Bombay, Suketu Mehta gives us a true insider’s view of this stunning city, bringing to his account a rare level of insight, detail, and intima
Hardcover, 560 pages
Published September 21st 2004 by Alfred A. Knopf (first published 2004)
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Riku Sayuj
Nov 12, 2014 Riku Sayuj rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Tanuj
Recommended to Riku by: Rajat Mathur

Maximum City: In A Theatre Near You

A native of Bombay, Suketu Mehta gives us an insider’s view of this stunning metropolis. - The cover boasts, without blushing.

Assume that you don’t know Mumbai. You have never lived in Mumbai. You might have bought ‘Maximum City’ thinking you would get a comprehensive idea on how Bombay works. But yet, the Mumbai you know and the Mumbai Suketu Mehta ‘finds’ are uncomfortably similar. Why? Both comes from Newspaper headlines and Movie stories - it is the sensati
Mar 28, 2011 Praj rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Circa 1992. It was a regular school day on a lovely December morning(winters are warm not cold in Bombay).With just an hour left to mid-morning recess, there was a sudden flurry of anxious announcements calling certain students to report immediately with their belongings at the Principal’s office. After being little nosy about the happenings I go back to my daydreaming. Suddenly, I see my mother hurriedly demanding that I go and collect my younger sister from her classroom. As I walk through th ...more
Dec 31, 2007 John rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I toyed with creating a new category for this book: "Nonfiction Stranger Than Fiction." But no. Some of the stories and experiences of people that this book chronicles do seem very far-fetched (say, to mention just one out of several dozen, the former newspaper cartoonist who becomes boss of one of the strongest Hindu fundamentalist parties in the country – an Indian Rush Limbaugh – and who provokes some of the most violent riots in the country’s history.) But it is all believable once you recog ...more
May 20, 2015 Caroline rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: world
In spite of this book being lavished with positive reviews both in the press and here on Goodreads, I found it incredibly boring. I leap-frogged my way through it, skipping chunky tracts as I skimmed its 600 or so pages. The bits that interested me discussed the infrastructure and practical problems of the city of Mumbai, which is massively over-populated, has substantial slums, and has some bizarre laws regarding accommodation. The bits that bored me were the long journalistic reports of the au ...more
Maura Finkelstein
Aug 30, 2007 Maura Finkelstein rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone who likes pornography
I'm fascinated by the hype over Mehta's travelogue. This book portrays women as objects, poor people as criminals, and the Bollywood elite as deserving the resentment of a bitter New York based writer who can't quite find a place in the city of his youth.
So I'm struggling to understand what all the hype is about.
This is not, contrary to what reviews would lead us to believe, a book about Bombay. Instead, it's a book about being an outsider, and it does a decent job grappling with alienation and
Sep 02, 2007 Suresh rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Indophiles Travel readers history buffs south-asian enthusiasts and watchers
I had heard about the book for a while now but just managed to pick the book few months ago at the airport during a business trip.

I loved the book mostly because I am from bombay as well and just like Suketu, I have moved to Bombay and back few times in my life. Everything in the book was very real for me and there were times when it felt like he literally took words out of my mouth. I would highly recommend this book to Indophiles, Travel readers and even history buffs. There are few things I
Anusha Jayaram
Apr 21, 2015 Anusha Jayaram rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: absolutely-hated
This is one of the toughest books I've ploughed through. That's because every page I turned just ended up increasing my irritation with Suketu Mehta. Let me say this upfront: this the most hypocritical, sanctimonious, pretentious purported writer I have *ever* come across, and Mehta's voice throughout this book disgusted me.

Perhaps even more important to state is this: that this book is potentially dangerous.
To an uninitiated reader, the misrepresentations, and biases (glaringly obvious to me)
Jan 12, 2008 Jonathan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Indophiles
Shelves: travel, india, non-fiction
Mehta returned to his native city as an adult and wrote this book over a couple year period. In it he spends time with police detectives, gangsters, political demagogues, bar room dancing girls, and Bollywood directors. The book gives a fascinating overview of one of the most densely populated, corrupt, polluted, and absurd cities on the planet.

Having just returned from two weeks in Bombay, where I finished this book, I looked at the city informed with Mehta's portrait. Walking next to me on the
Sep 07, 2007 Lena rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
This book was a mixed bag for me. There is some great narrative in Mehta's tale of his return to the city of his youth as an adult. His description of learning how to navigate the corrupt bureaucracy in order to get enough cooking gas for his new flat was priceless. But as he begins to delve more deeply into explorations of politics, organized crime and the sex trade, particularly his growing friendship with a bar girl, the narrative outlasted my interest. I really enjoyed certain sections of th ...more
Jun 14, 2011 Avidreader rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This book is pathetic. All the author did was rent a bunch of hindi movies and rehashed them in detail. I simply can't understand the positive reviews--especially those of Indian readers, who have probably seen these movies over and over. The similarities are so striking, some of the dialogs have been quoted--verbatim. Not to mention the drivel at the beginningof the book-Mr.Mehta should be ashamed of himself for delving onmicro castism. In today's day and age only an incredibly regressive kind ...more
Dec 07, 2007 Liza marked it as will-i-ever-finish-these-books  ·  review of another edition
I'm having a difficult time finishing this book. I usually read it for a few days and then need a break due to the overwhelming detail and drama that Mehta inserts into his prose. I honestly liked the beginning of the book in which Mehta made me feel as though I could see Bombay: crowding around a street stall for the best food in town, the need to bribe every public official for every little (and big) convenience, the dearth of toilets, the omnipresent din, the rich, the poor, etc. But now I'm ...more
Sean McKenna
My goal in reading this book was to get some context about Bombay before visiting for the first time. I realized that the book was not itself a history of the city but I had hoped that there would be sufficient background provided to help me understand Bombay as it exists today and then to illustrate some of the ways in which it is unique. I probably should have done more research on the nature of the book since it mostly failed to meet my goal.

The bits of historical context ended up being few a
Dec 18, 2009 Matt rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Friends, people interested in India/South-Asia, folks who love reading about cities
Shelves: nonfiction, favorites
I rather haphazardly stumbled across Maximum City in an airport bookshop a couple months back and boy am I glad I did, because it perfectly hits one of my literary sweet spots: a fascination with modern cities. It's a well-researched and very detailed look at Bombay (or, as many call it now, Mumbai) as it exists today in all its tremendous beauty and unparalleled horror. Suketu Mehta has a wonderful talent for downloading a tremendous amount of information while also writing utterly fascinating ...more
Feb 15, 2010 Ryan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I can't say I've ever had a strong desire to move to Bombay, but this book was convincing enough that I safely believe it not the place for me. But, there's a certain subconscious, almost sadomasochistic draw to the place - as if moving there would be a particularly creative form of (potentially physical) suicide to the person I am today. Like Los Angeles - only 10 times stronger.

I came to this book via Mehta's interview in the Believer. He seemed a funny, smart guy and I figured his book would
Jun 19, 2009 Jonathan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Finally finished this 500+ page magisterial work on India's largest city, Mumbai to most, but still Bombay to Suketu Mehta, who was raised in the city and now lives in New York. This *is* Bombay, in all its beautiful, frustrating, dazzling, harrowing, filthy, dizzying glory. As Mehta tells it--and how brilliantly does he tell it!--this is a city of extremes: extreme wealth and extreme poverty, extreme vice and extreme religiosity; oftentimes the two coexisting side by side. This is a city where ...more
Oct 23, 2008 Shikha rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone who has a love affair with big cities.
Shelves: favorites
Another incredible book on Bombay (I think I need to move on to another city). More raw than Shantaram and a few parts sensationalized (in my opinion), but an amazing account of the many layers and faces of Bombay, that made me even more fascinated and in awe of how the metropolitan megalith manages to stay afloat. My favorite quote: "You can go home again, and you can also leave again. Once more, with confidence, into the world." (It spoke to me. :))
Sreejitha Sasikumar
I just skimmed through its pages. There were too many informations given. Only after reaching half way did i realize it's a non fiction. The book is a good read if you want to know about Bombay, politicians, gundas, Lafdas, terrorists and about riots. What I felt was more emphasis is given on these matters rather than focusing on Bombay as a whole. Bombay is unique than most of the cities in India. These riots and gang wars are not what Bombay is made of. But of those millions of people who are ...more
Wow, people love this book, people hate this book! What a coup to have fawning quotes on the back cover from William Dalrymple, Amitav Ghosh and on the cover from Salman Rushdie. How could I not love this book? Mostly because it is 600 pages long!

Really it covers a huge amount of ground. The book is divided into three parts. Power is the first, and this part covers the topics of the authors personal geography and his mixture of Bombay and American lives; then goes historical with the 1992/3 riot
Frank Stein
Dec 15, 2009 Frank Stein rated it really liked it

A lot of purple prose here, but some of it is really justified. After all, when you're surrounded by Muslim gangsters, Jainist monks, underage call girls, and Bollywood movie producers, all set against the backdrop of one of the world's strangest and filthiest cities, you're allowed to use a little literary hyperbole.

Mehta's a journalist who returns to his hometown of Bombay to explore the underworld and write some in-depth portraits of its denizens. He does a great job of it, even though he him
Harish Rajamani
Jan 25, 2011 Harish Rajamani rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
As someone who grew up in Bombay (yes, I left about 7 years ago, so I'm still able to resist calling it Mumbai) I should say that I did not identify with everything in this book, but the essence of it appealed to me, I think. While I felt that the book looked at the city with (what seemed intentionally) a foreign eye, I would say to its credit that this did not hinder my ability to identify with the book, as much as my own ignorance of the many layers of Bombay, growing up as a kid.
I've always
Aug 07, 2012 Subodh rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
If you can not relate yourself with Mumbai, probably you will not like it. If Mumbai makes you curious, even just by movies, you will love good portion of the book.

I loved part 1: Power. Suketu writes a gripping tale of riots, underworld and Mumbai police's interrogation and encounters.

Chapter six made me yawn. I didn't find description of Irani hotel menu interesting.

Chapter called "A city in heat" is good read which takes you in the world of night bar girls.

Chapter "Distilleries of Pleasure"
Jun 17, 2011 Nycreader rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This is an awful, shallow book. Quite honestly I couldn't get past the underworld part of the book. Suketu Mehta has made the most of his Bollywood connections. That part was such a hackneyed collection of anecdotes, all eerily similar to various scenes from much-watched Bollywood movies about the criminal element in Bombay. I question how much research Mr. Mehta has really done for this part of the book - apart from watching the aforementioned movies. Perhaps Mr. Mehta read one of the leading I ...more
Mansi Oza
Aug 07, 2016 Mansi Oza rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Mumbai, a city which never sleeps, a city of dreams, a city of lights and fast life. Mumbai, earlier called Bombay, has many names. This city has attracted people from all parts of India to come and change their life. But does their life improved from that of in the village or they created a different world of their own. Being born and bought up in Mumbai, never thought how the life will be for people who come from villages or other part of India. Also the two categories of people, lower and mid ...more
Mar 20, 2016 Farheen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The author returns to Mumbai (the city he calls home after travelling to quite a number of cities) and tries to look for the city he left 21 years ago. He goes on a quest to find a city of his youth by meeting different people with offbeat lives. From gangsters to call girls to dreamers to Jain monks, this book narrates many peculiar lives inhabiting Mumbai.
I would recommend this book as it is well written, well researched and eccentric. But, I find it necessary to add that I have never lived in
Naresh Tanna
Jun 01, 2007 Naresh Tanna rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Adults
Very interesting if you care to learn how the streets/underground works in Mumbai. The book does a great job in describing Mumbai as if it were a living, breathing animal. Tons of history can be learned as well as interesting behaviors/facts about the crazy city.
Feb 23, 2016 Jill rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I found this book interesting, but at times very hard to read. I have never been to Bombay, nor am I an Indian (and I don't think my one visit to India really qualifies me to speak as an expert), so my opinion on the accuracy of the book is limited. I found the characters interesting, and depictions of the city useful (as I was previously unable to imagine it). I was actually unaware of the riots until I read this book. I found the description of the underworld and how it works in the city somew ...more
Razi Shaikh
Oct 24, 2015 Razi Shaikh rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

'"If I see my son I see the whole world," Babbanji's father points out. "My light is here. I see the world through him. I will see you through him, I will see America through him. He is my screen." And looking at the seventeen-year-old beaming at me, his eyes and his heart eager to discover, to react, to live, and the father next to him, now also smiling, I believe it. There will be many long evenings now, after all the explanations have been made, perhaps after a thrashing from his mother, afte
Kaustuv Baral
Mar 31, 2015 Kaustuv Baral rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I have stayed in Bombay for 6 years and still go there sometimes. My relationship with Bombay (do note I am quoting Bombay not Mumbai) has been a love/hate affair. Love because it never ceases to amaze me of the people who stay there, of the energy which is palpable in its very air. And Hate because the same reason of my love towards it- its so crowded! I have traveled the locals for 4 long years so I kind of understand the grim turmoil which will come into my life if I decide staying there. And ...more
Apr 05, 2014 Robert rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: travel
In spite of having been born there, journalist Suketu Mehta seems more a tourist than an insider in Bombay/Mumbai. And he should, he grew up in the US. The structure here is what you would expect from a professional journalist -- early chapters describing his personal likes and dislikes (mostly dislikes) of his new city, followed by interviews and character studies of a few people chosen to represent Bombay types -- the small-time crook, the gangster, the movie star. There's a strong tendency to ...more
Amey Nadkarni
Jul 20, 2012 Amey Nadkarni rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Everyone who lives in Mumbai or aspires to.
Ever since I heard about this book, I have been wanting to read it. On various occasions I did come across it, picked it up, browsed through it, liked it, yet never bought it! Until finally 14 days ago, I entered the book shop to buy something entirely different and ended up walking out with Maximum City- a book about Bombay: a city I was born into and of course, a book about Mumbai: a city I grew up in!!

As I began ravenously reading it, I cursed myself for not procuring it all these years. A ho
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Suketu Mehta is the New York-based author of 'Maximum City: Bombay Lost and Found,' which won the Kiriyama Prize and the Hutch Crossword Award, and was a finalist for the 2005 Pulitzer Prize, the Lettre Ulysses Prize, the BBC4 Samuel Johnson Prize, and the Guardian First Book Award. He has won the Whiting Writers Award, the O. Henry Prize, and a New York Foundation for the Arts Fellowship for his ...more
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“And at the moment of contact, they do not know if the hand that is reaching for theirs belongs to a Hindu or Muslim or Christian or Brahmin or untouchable or whether you were born in this city or arrived only this morning or whether you live in Malabar Hill or New York or Jogeshwari; whether you’re from Bombay or Mumbai or New York. All they know is that you’re trying to get to the city of gold, and that’s enough. Come on board, they say. We’ll adjust.” 13 likes
“A city like Bombay, like New York, that is a recent creation on the planet and does not have a substantial indigenous population, is full of restless people. Those who have come here have not been at ease somewhere else. And unlike others who may have been equally uncomfortable wherever they came from, these people got up and moved. As I have discovered, having once moved, it is difficult to stop moving.” 11 likes
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