Thursday, December 6, 2007

Bombay and New York

When the writer Sukhetu Mehta told people in Bombay, India that he was going to New York City, they told him that he would feel at home: Bombay, they said, is just like New York. After writing his brilliant Maximum City: Bombay Lost and Found, and working on a forthcoming book about immigration in New York City, Mehta has concluded that they are right.

Both cities, he said at a reading Wednesday at Rutgers-Newark, have a certain contempt for their capital cities: New York for Washington, DC, Bombay for Delhi. Both are city-states--large enough and distinct enough that their inhabitants can imagine that their destiny is not entirely bound to their surrounding country. As Mehta put it, people in Bombay imagine India the way a famous cover of New York imagines the USA in relation to New York City: narrow, distant and inconsequential.

The sources of this mindset in Bombay, and much more, are conveyed in Maximum City. At once an exploration of a great city and Mehta's own relationship to the metropolis, the book covers everything from Hindu-Muslim conflicts to gangsters to dancing girls to Bollywood films. Mehta conveys the feel of Bombay without reducing it to a few simple traits. Bombay, in Mehta's view, is a city of multiple personalities--many of which resonate in him.

Mehta is now at work on a nonfiction book about immgrants in New York City. If he brings to it the same sense of people and place that shine in Maximum City, it will be a book well worth reading.


varun said...

this is friggin blasphemy. Yes, Bombay has tall buildings and finance. But, thats where similarity ends.

The buildings in bombay are ugly as hell. New York's skyline is majestic. New York may have contempt for DC, but it does politics (Hillary's campaign is based in NYC, Bombay used to have campaign) Bombay doesn't have a single good newspaper or national magazine.

New York is probably the most organized city in the world. Bombay the most chaotic and cant even walk there.

Nobody from New York will feel at home in Bombay. Mr. Mehta get out of my city. go back to bombay.

Anonymous said...

LOL @ Varun...

funny enough, but more sad to see his last statment "Mr. Mehta get out of my city. go back to bombay."

pls mr varun, get out of ur so called fuckin city NY and go study ur roots.

Its the mind of the people that is compared... the mentality, the character... you pitty people with peanut sized brains are the ones indian politics is based on. I hope you bring enough luck to ur family and friends. just dont bring in ur brains. we have enough of u fuckers around in the world fucking up what we do right..

so fuck comenting on shit u dont know about. and if u feel u do, do us the favor and perhaps keep it with ur self. will be must appreciated.

Jai Hind.