Maximum City By Suketu Mehta

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A non-fiction detailed account of the life in Bombay, now Mumbai.

The author gives us an insider’s view of this magnificent city as he was born and lived his childhood here. His family left Mumbai for the US when he was young and he comes back with his experience of returning to the city as an adult, as well as a parent and resident. He accounts for his frustration with everyday day life in a developing nation, describes the slums, delves into the politics of modern Mumbai, the criminal Mumbai underworld, his meetings with murderous gangsters and prominent politicians, and a lot more giving the reader an entire picture of a city which does not have boundaries.

According to me a few aspects were exaggerated and a few were dealt with a tad lightly. Anyone who has ever been associated with Bombay at some point in their lives must read this book as they can easily picture in their minds what the author is talking about. Others too will find it interesting.

Shantaram By Gregory David Roberts

9780349117546

In the early 1980s, Gregory David Roberts, sentenced to a 19-year imprisonment for a series of armed robberies in Australia, escaped from Victoria’s Pentridge Prison and became one of Australia’s most wanted men for the next ten years. Shantaram is a novel influenced by the real events that follow his escape.

The book describes how the main character Lin lands in Bombay (now Mumbai), falls in love, befriends local artists and actors, and is recruited by the Mumbai underworld for various criminal operations. Ultimately, he spends time in Mumbai’s Arthur Road Prison and endures brutal physical and mental abuse. Lin eventually gets released with the help of the Afghan mafia don and begins to work for him. When the don is killed, Lin comes to the bitter realization that he has turned into a person he loathed and decides to build an honest life.

This debut novel is a must read. People who live or have ever lived in Mumbai will be able to relate to it a lot. Once you begin to read it, the ever so daunting 900+ pages will not bother you at all.