When I received this book from the author for a review, I was desperately hoping that it would be a good read.The reason being that writing reviews of books I don’t like, is quite an unpleasant activity. Well, the gods were paying attention and the book turned out to be quite intriguing 🙂
Once Upon The Tracks Of Mumbai tells the story of Babloo Srivastav, who comes from a very middle class background and stays with his family in the railway quarters in Mumbai. The narrative is partly in the first person which in this case is very interesting since we are allowed a peek into the world of an autistic individual. Even though diagnosed as autistic with other psychiatric disorders, Babloo does not receive any special care or attention from his family and to make matters worse, his younger brother Raghu, is pampered and cosseted. Babloo is a loner who finds a small amount of solace in his interactions with Vandana, another resident of the colony. The story follows Babloo in his odyssey to secure Vandana’s love. She’s the archetype of a working girl from a typical middle class family in Mumbai, professional, ambitious and in a hurry to further her lot in life. At the same time she’s a dutiful daughter who wants to keep her parents happy. Enter Sikander, the local casanova with a roving eye and a lack of morals. These 3 characters take the story forward through their search for the unattainable. Sikander wants to have a good time with Vandana and nothing more. Vandana yearns to escape from the kind of life she’s been leading, she wants to marry only for love. Babloo wants to spend the rest of his life with Vandana. What happens when Sikander is thwarted ? Will Vandana be willing to compromise on the most important decision of her life ? Can Babloo find the love he craves ?
I loved the way Rishi Vohra takes us into Babloo’s world. From Babloo’s perspective, he has valid reasons for his behaviour and he finds it strange that his parents cannot understand him. He spends his time watching movies in old, dingy theatres and walking for miles along the railway track. Both are activities which allows him to be alone and Babloo finds a kind of release or freedom in this. He can give free reign to his thoughts and escape into another world. Babloo has a very strong sense of right and wrong and it is this quality which leads him to get embroiled in the biggest adventure of his life. Another strong point of this book is the detailed and vivid description of the railway quarters and the lives of the residents. Rishi has done a wonderful job in bringing alive the people staying there, their hopes, dreams, petty squabbles and their trials and tribulations. He built such a powerful image in my mind that I still find myself thinking of the crumbling buildings and the lawn when I see similar Govt. buildings.
My only complaint is that the ending was a trifle too convenient. It reminded me of a Bollywood movie where all the pieces of the puzzle fit in ultimately. Since I don’t want to include any spoilers, I’ll not go too much into this. I would say that this is a really commendable debut by Rishi Vohra, a novel of love, longing and hope.
Thanks to Rishi for sending me a copy to review and apologies cos I took so long to do it 🙂