Bombay Lost and Found, the by-line for this book is a little misleading. What I hoped would be a book of life and experiences in Bombay was actually his two year research on different aspects of the city - but I was not disappointed.
Maximum city neatly compartmentalizes Bombay into underworld, Bollywood, bar-girls, politics- all this interspersed with Sukhetu Mehta's own personal anecdotes. The book's beginning is what is easily relatable to any non-Mumbaiite moving into the city. Thereafter, it is a Mumbai I probably would never have gotten to know - and maybe, some of it, I don’t want to know - except through movies, and maybe the newspaper. The rent Act, the crazy hype over the West (West Mumbai), why New Bombay failed, the lack of solutions to Mumbai over-population situation – we have questioned all of it at some point in time. And he lays the answers or at least the history for us. His portrayal of some banal scenes from life, like travelling on an overcrowded Mumbai train, dealing with your plumber - yes, you have seen all of it. Yet, the book has managed to throw a different angle to it.
What makes the book's narration of some of the already beaten-to-death-aspects of the city is the interesting characters the author meets and how he has beautifully fleshed out each character's life, dreams, aspirations, their philosophy and what makes Mumbai tick for them. I loved his portrayal of Babbanji’, a 16-year old who runs away from Bihar to Mumbai.
I won't call the book an easy read. It's voluminous, and sometimes like a text book. The author's style is vivid, and so graphically descriptive that it borders on repulsive and disgusting on many occasions- but that is probably what helps drive the truth home. However, his narration is simple and flows beautifully. He has managed to simplify a complex city, complex people and complex country (to some level) and present the nuts and bolts of it engagingly!