Once Upon The Tracks Of Mumbai - A Review.

Title : "Once Upon The Tracks Of Mumbai"

Author : Rishi Vohra
Genre : Fiction.
Price : Rs.175
Publisher: Jaico Publishing House.

Cover analysis:
Never judge a book by it's cover. Something that we have all heard a million times by a million people but have never managed to stick on it. Once Upon The Tracks Of Mumbai is a perfect example. As soon as you lay your eyes on this book you are pretty much prepared to NOT like it. It has a very filmy and cliched cover page which makes you apprehensive and your brain instantly cautions you for the book to turn into a yet another Indian-author's-script-for-a-typical-Bollywood-romance-flick. But all these apprehensions fade away the moment you move to the back cover.
"Autistic. Schizophrenic. Psychotic.."
Definitely an unexplored territory. Also with every chance of things going round. But also definitely worth the risk.

My review:
When you pick up a book by an Indian author you have certain expectations which precisely includes plain pedestrian language among many others. Hinglish is their mother tongue and a lousy story with some pages plastered with steamy sex scenes and explicit language makes them a national bestseller. OUTTOM drains all your expectations down the drain. (Thankfully!) The language is extremely good. It is a bit toned down for the masses yet it doesn't disappoint you.

An autographed copy. Weeee! :D
Balwant Srivastav known as Babloo throughout the book is the protagonist of the story. He is autistic, schizophrenic and psychotic in words of the society but brave and nice in words of Vandana, an independent and romantic-at-heart whom Babloo sees himself with throughout the story. The book deals with his mental dilemmas and his ultimate path to self-discovery. The villain of the story is the society. He is not accepted by the society and not even by his parents. He is the ignored and is the less-loved kid and is constantly nagged by his father for being a social disgrace. He has ideas, he has notions on how the society should work and how the government should work but soon realizes that there is no other way to make sure that the changes take place until he takes law in his own hands.

As the title suggests the book revolves in Mumbai and especially around the railway tracks. The author explores the whole of Mumbai from slums, railway quarters to posh localities, from hard-working honest people to cable-wallas that telecast porn movies at night on viewer demands and pirated movies, from political gangs to grateful and enthusiastic television reporters, from mean and selfish people to real life heroes.

The other prominent character in the book is Vandana : A typical middle class Indian girl fascinated by the freedom of thought and action in the west. Like most of the people she has huge ass dreams but doesn't take a single step to have them fulfilled. She leaves her life and also her dreams to destiny and cribs about her life without actually doing anything about it.

Characters like Sikander and Raghu disappoint you. One is this extremely charming bastard who takes advantage of naive girls while the other is a desperate, horny, male chauvinist pig that has opinions on what his to-be-wife is "supposed" to do and not do the moment his marriage is fixed.

Things I extremely liked in the book:
1. The story is slow paced yet it doesn't get monotonous. Not once do you put off the book because you lost interest.
2. Every shade of Babloo has been brought up beautifully. You find your self relating to him at every word he says or thinks. You feel sorry for him and you feel proud of him. Either way you can't help but fall in love with the character and the way he thinks.
3. Details are paid attention to. From describing the railway flats to the intricate details of Babloo's mindset, the author has done a perfect job explaining things.
4. The mentality of the people in the book have been brought about perfectly. There is one "Raghu" and one "Sikander" in every 4 Indian males and one "Vandana" in every 5 Indian females. (The reliability of these statistics is still under review :P)
5. The book has just the right amount of humor . Like the saying:
"You can take a bhaiya out of UP but you can’t take UP out of a bhaiya."
6. The narration has been dealt with superb tactics. At one place you have a first person narration and in the next paragraph it instantly switches to third person yet I found the transition to be smooth.
7. The book is not limited to a certain age group.
8. The book transports you to another world. I read most of the book in the metro while my commute to and from work and I mostly found myself in another world away from all the noise and chatter in the metro. The world of Babloo. The world where you think like a child and the evil intentions of the person in front of you are non-existent and totally irrelevant for you.

Things I didnot like in the book:
1. No doubt the cover. If only the author would have opted for a better cover this book could have been in line for a national bestseller.
2. The fast paced climax. I was in a for a smooth and slow paced story for the entire book but when the author rushed the climax I was a bit disappointed.
3. I HATED Vandana's character. She had dreams and plans for her life but all she did was to crib about her present situation. She didn't make a single effort to improve her current status and just let destiny sweep her off her feet.
4. Some parts get filmy where the protagonist turns all Sunny Deol and wipes of a bunch of people single handedly.

Final Verdict:
Engrossing. Fascinating. Lovable. Detailed. All in all this book leaves you with a warm and fuzzy feeling by the end. As experienced by Mr. Prahalad Kakkar "You'll find bits of yourself in this book". Sometimes you'll find yourself relating to Babloo while in the very next instance you'll find yourself in Vandana. The book is engaging, interesting and insightful. It is definitely a page turner and if you like it as much as I do in the first read you'll find yourself reading it again.

Usually I am not a fan of books being turned into movies as it changes the main essence of it yet I somehow want this book to be turned into one. It has all the shades of being turned into a great movie.


About the author: 
Rishi Vohra recently relocated back to Mumbai after completing a Green MBA from San Francisco State University and a Masters Diploma in Environmental Law, prior to which he had a successful career in the Indian Entertainment Industry. After featuring as a guest columnist for various newspapers in India, he currently writes for delWine and is a Certified Specialist of Wine (CSW). 'Once Upon the Tracks of Mumbai' is his first novel.
Website: www.rishivohra.com


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