Book: Maximum City

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Maximum City: Bombay Lost and Found

Author: Suketu Mehta
Publisher: Knopf

A brilliantly illuminating portrait of Bombay and its people—a book as vast, diverse, and rich in experience, incident, and sensation as the city itself—from an award-winning Indian-American fiction writer and journalist.

A native of Bombay, Suketu Mehta gives us a true insider’s view of this stunning city, bringing to his account a rare level of insight, detail, and intimacy. He approaches the city from unexpected angles—taking us into the criminal underworld of rival Muslim and Hindu gangs who wrest control of the city’s byzantine political and commercial systems…following the life of a bar dancer who chose the only life available to her after a childhood of poverty and abuse…opening the doors onto the fantastic, hierarchical inner sanctums of Bollywood…delving into the stories of the countless people who come from the villages in search of a better life and end up living on the sidewalks—the essential saga of a great city endlessly played out.

Through it all—as each individual story unfolds—we hear Mehta’s own story: of the mixture of love, frustration, fascination, and intense identification he feels for and with Bombay, as he tries to find home again after twenty-one years abroad. And he makes clear that Bombay—the world’s largest city—is a harbinger of the vast megalopolises that will redefine the very idea of “the city” in the near future.

Candid, impassioned, funny, and heartrending, Maximum City is a revelation of an ancient and ever-changing world.


Barnes and Noble

“Bombay is the future of urban civilization on the planet. God help us,” writes Mehta, in this startling, provocative look at “the biggest, fastest, richest city in India.” Mehta spent much of his childhood in Bombay (now Mumbai) before moving to New York with his family. As an adult, he returned there only to be confounded as he sought to reconcile the city of his youth with the teeming, filthy, and yet sometimes alluringly exotic metropolis before him.

What he finds is a city where one always waits in line, yet one is always in a hurry. Where one cannot function without complicity in an intricate system of bribery. Where one must learn (precisely) in which place commuters must stand to exit a train, lest they be trampled by the hordes rushing into the car before it speeds away.

Through Mehta’s eyes, readers observe the individuals who call Bombay home, including the writer himself. We meet a dancer who works in Bombay’s sex industry and a director navigating the complex world of Bollywood. Corrupt officials parade by, as do gang members who nonchalantly affirm their murderous pasts. As a traveler to Bombay, Mehta felt he was watching the “extreme” of life. Fortunately, readers can share his wildly entrancing journey back “home” from the comfort of their own, more tranquil households. (Holiday 2004 Selection)

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