Somewhere in between a relay race and ‘six degrees of separation’ lies the narrative style of this excellent novel. And just like the city it showcases, it sets a scorching pace. But its not just a microcosm of the city, its also a take on social issues – from religion to class differences to a clash of the old and new. And somewhere in between is a subtext of man’s search for where he came from and where he is going, and the series of connected lives and the sheer weariness that prevents them from being able to think beyond their immediate existence, somehow points towards the title – ‘no god in sight’.
From the millions that make up the phenomenon that’s Bombay, and gives it a ‘spirit’, the author manages to create a few characters that give us a glimpse of the individual lives. He begins with a seemingly nonchalant treatment of what might be considered a moral issue – abortion, and thus captures the pulse of a city and the thought process and credo of a new generation. But amazingly, there is a universal nature to it too, and more often than not, the author manages to walk this line with balance, despite the majority of characters being Muslim. Featuring the famous local trains, the cop who expounds the logic of his sense of justice, the men who share a name with a terrorist, the book is quintessentially Mumbai, and yet, from another perspective, they’re just human stories. If we juxtapose the allusions to ‘my mumbai’ and ‘your mumbai’ in the corporate executive’s story and the ‘to be comfortable with discomfort, one must banish all contact with ease’ in the butcher’s story, we see two sets of people figuring out their own ways to cope with what the city and life throws at them. Sometimes, they can’t, and all they want to do is escape, like Amin Bhai.
In just about 170 pages, Altaf Tyrewala creates not just the characters who make Mumbai, but even manages to represent, even if its just through a few examples, how they got there. Can’t even complain about the lack of character development because the snapshots almostd efine the characters. Another great rendition of Mumbai, and a must read!