domingo, 3 de março de 2013

Bombay Time - Thrity Umrigar

I love her books!!! Thrity is an incredible writer which has exceptional talent. She is Indian, a woman and a writer - WOW! This was my fourth book of hers that I read and in sincere honesty it was the one that least made an impact on me - but nonetheless that doesn't change the fact of her being an amazing writer and the book being a wonderful read. 
One thing I really admire in all of her books is how she portrays the truth, people's everyday reality and her characters come from all walks of life. Each one differs making you understand people's perspective: be they young, old, rich or poor... they are all part of India which is revealed in her books. She unravels the thoughts in peoples heads, reveals the politicians filth, makes you sympathize with the poorest of poor and understand the big woman who married into a sad, sad life. 
This book focuses on a community which is based in all the inhabitants of an apartment complex who find themselves in a wedding. You get to enter each guest's private thoughts, secrets of the past, pain and joy, secret longings and frustrations. And you then find yourself one with them, part of the Wadia building. 

Book Review:

I was waiting for this book for a very long time. Thrity Umrigar has been a favourite author of mine for ages and this book did not disappoint. The beauty of the story is that the doings of the families of Wadia Baug (a block of flats in Mumbai) are set amidst the wider scope of the Parsi community at large. You finally end up knowing quite a bit about Parsis in general and the residents of Wadia 
Baug in particular.

The story is of Rusi a businessman whose dreams of becoming another Tata has failed. He is moderately successful but not to the extent that he wanted. We also have his embittered wife Coomi who cannot really pinpoint her animosity and anger towards her husband. She is just dissatisfied, bitter and angry at the turn of events. The story of Rusi and Coomi and their daughter Binny who has made a life for herself in England is set against the stories of Jimmy and the catalyst of the story is Jimmy's son's lavish wedding banquet.

The wedding forms the setting for the story of all who gather to celebrate the event. From Tehmi who married and who was widowed tragically after just three years of married bliss and who has almost withdrawn from the world, to Dosamai widowed with a married son who has moved as far away as possible from her, to the very happily married Bomi and Sheroo and Adi Patel who flits from one woman to another and is never satisfied we have the broad outlines of the people who inhabit the flats and how their lives have mingled from the time they were young couples and with growing children. Now the couples are middle aged and children married and they are introspective as to how their lives have changed and what their present focus in life is.

The story is representative also of the different stratas of society found in Mumbai. We have the Parsis generally considered a very educated, business minded community who are forward thinking, English educated and who consider themselves a cut above everyone else! Originally from Persia to escape persecution they sought refuge in Mumbai and ended up holding key positions in the civil service under the British. This consolidated their hold on society in Mumbai especially in the business sector. We have on the other hand the teeming poor of Mumbai waiting for the guests to finish eating so that they could partake of the remnants and for them the remnants were the feast. This seems to highlight the differences in this society which I presume remain to this day. It does not augur well for society in general when the gap between the haves and the have nots is so very wide.

I was so struck by the Parsi community that I want to do a bit of reading on this tiny community of under 80,000 (worldwide). The book gives you an insight into Parsi customs and traditions but it is a small intriguing  look only. The fascinating tradition regarding how Parsis view death and how they deal with death in their Towers of Silence is also fascinating reading.

Would highly recommend this book not just from a family story point of view, but also an insight into Mumbai and this small community still managing to survive maintaining all its traditions and customs.

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