Mumbai has a lot of life in it. The colours, the noise, the aura is quite overwhelming. Describing this dynamic city in words isn’t an easy task. Many authors have written about their experiences and built stories in and around the city. We have a list of a few books which have captured the city's essence and transcribed it into mesmerising words.
1) Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts
However mainstream this may sound, ‘Shantaram’ has to be one of the most thrilling stories ever written. The semi-autobiographical novel of convicted Australian bank robber and drug addict, Gregory David Roberts, takes you to the dark nooks and corners of the city. The good, the bad and the ugly is expressed in a gripping format. 'Shantaram' is one of those rare books, which can make one rethink life from an entirely different perspective. The book is no ordinary read. A foreigner’s take on the city will compel the readers to intensify their thinking. A sequel called ‘The Mountain Shadow’ was released in 2015.
2) Last Man in Tower by Aravind Adiga
Famous for his debut novel ‘White Tiger’ which fetched him the Booker Prize in 2008, Aravind Adiga next came up with a story on Mumbai’s real estate scenario. A tale of one man refusing to leave his home in the face of property development. Tower A is a relic from a co-operative housing society established in the 1950s. With towers coming up at the blink of an eye, the protagonist is involved in a redevelopment scuffle. This sentiment vs development story will certainly reach every Mumbaikar’s heart. The book represents vivid shades of our city.
3) Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie
Going slightly back in time, this 1981 novel describes a classic transition from British colonialism to independence and the partition of British India. The book follows the life of the protagonist ‘Saleem Sinai’ who takes birth at the stroke of midnight.
4) Q & A by Vikas Swarup
Probably one of the most decorated stories based on Mumbai, 'Q & A' was later adapted into ‘Slumdog Millionaire’ directed by Danny Boyle. The story follows Ram Mohammed Thomas who is jailed for winning the biggest quiz show in history just because he was a poor orphan coming from the slums. This story describes the slums of Mumbai accurately and the multiple layers of the corrupt system. Vikas Swarup's 'Q & A' is a beguiling blend of high comedy, drama, and romance that reveals how we know what we know - not just about trivia, but about life itself.
5) Dongri to Dubai by S Hussain Zaidi
This epic mafia tale speaks about six decades of the Mumbai mafia. The book traces the evolution of the Mumbai mafia from a group of thugs and smugglers to the present day mafia dons of organised crime. Zaidi, a former investigative journalist, traces the journey of the infamous gangster, Dawood Ibrahim. From the narrow lanes of Dongri to setting up an empire in Dubai, it also talks about gangsters like Haji Mastan, Karim Lala, Varadarajan Mudaliar, Chhota Rajan and Abu Salem. The book was later adapted into a movie - ‘Shootout at Wadala’. This book depicts the dark side of the city and how life changing moments led to the shift in the city frame.
6) Behind The Beautiful Forevers by Katherine Boo
The book describes a present-day slum of Mumbai, India, named Annawadi, which is located near the Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport. It follows the interconnected lives of several residents, including a young trash picker, a female "slumlord," and a college student. The author is an American woman who lived in Mumbai with her husband, an Indian who had a job in the city. It’s a non-fiction story that gives us the raw taste of Mumbai.
It is difficult to describe every colour of this buzzing city but these few books have made a successful attempt. There are many other novels which are Mumbai-based and any person who reads these books gets to sip on this vibrant mix of a drink called 'Mumbai'.