Patrick McCoy's Reviews > Maximum City: Bombay Lost and Found
Maximum City: Bombay Lost and Found
by Suketu Mehta
by Suketu Mehta
Maximum City is a like a wild ride through the teeming streets of Mumbai, formerly known as Bombay. Journalist Suketu Mehta returns to the city of his youth to write a book about the experience, and the result is a lively and rambling ride through one of the most densely populated cities in the world. It is a personal odyssey as much as an opportunity to survey the violence, corruption, and sin of the city. The book is basically divided into three sections Power (mostly about organized crime), Pleasure (which is mostly about what is known in Japan as the “water trade”- i.e. prostitution and its other manifestations of it, like beer bars), and Passages (which is essentially profiles of the poor and destitute). The strength of the book lies in his vivid descriptions of the streets of the city and the social customs of what he calls the city of “No”-where nothing can be done without personal connections or bribery. Then there’s organized crime, the film industry, public attitudes toward the personal and the private, the filth and the poverty. It all comes alive in this entertaining book. Honestly, a bit of editing could have been useful-although most of it was compelling; I got bogged down in the second half of the book after such a promising start. The 1993 riots emerge as a defining event that has set the tone for how the city operates years after the horrible riots among Hindus and Muslims. The myriad of religions, castes, and traditions seem overwhelming at times, but it is certainly an eye opener to complexities of Mumbai. I feel the need to experience it sometime, I certainly wouldn’t want to live there after reading the description of daily life there, but it seems to be a worthwhile experience to have first hand-sure to be an assault of the senses.
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