Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Once Upon the Tracks of Mumbai by Rishi Vohra

Title: Once Upon the Tracks of Mumbai
Author: Rishi Vohra
Publishers: Jaico Publishing house
Genre: Romantic Fiction

The cover is bollywoodesque, and so is the title; this was my first impression when I received the book. I didn’t think much of it believing in the adage that the cover tells you a lot about the book.

It turned out to be wrong, it is a fine book very finely written. The story is narrated mostly from the view point of Balwant Srivastav aka Babloo, a young man who has multiple psychiatric problems.  He has been neglected thoroughly by his family, who are simple middle class people. Babloo feels ignored and has only himself and the long Mumbai railway tracks for company. His parents have never probably even tried to accept their child’s special status leave alone helping him or even understanding it. To make the matters worse they have cosseted and spoiled his younger brother Raghu and their world revolves around him.

Babloo’s world on the other hand revolves around Vandana Gupta, the beautiful, smart and outgoing daughter of a senior officer in the Railway Colony in Mumbai where they all live. She is the only one who talks to him normally and does not treat him with apathy. He dreams of being with him and his only purpose is to be able to express himself and his feelings to her.  Enter the local street smart cable operator Sikander whose only purpose is to impress Vandana and bed her.

What happens to the three with Raghu as the betrothed, arranged by the two set of parents providing the fourth angle is both interesting as well as funny in places.  In the course to impress Vandana and also to find a purpose to his life Babloo becomes the ‘Rail Man’. This provides an interesting twist to the narrative and after that the book is un-putdownable.

The characterization, especially of Babloo, Vandana and to some extent even Sikander and Raghu is brilliant. Babloo provides a peep into the minds of special children and their feelings. Vandana comes across as the girl next door who is smart and ambitious yet hopelessly romantic. Her father trusting her and standing up for her is a refreshing change. Sikander is a thorough bad boy and one does tend to feel revulsion for him. Raghu’s stupidity and idiocy provided comic relief.

Another good point is the realistic description of Mumbai and the lives of the people in the railway colony. The city and the colony both come alive and are very well woven in the context. The incident of Rail Man depicts how easily people can be misled and how Babloo could feel empowered only when he hid his true identity. The narrative is smooth, language easy and very readable. The plot elements are interwoven very admiringly.

It’s a racy read. Very realistic in parts but the end is again a bit cheesy and too neat as everything falls in place. Still a believable and happy ending is always welcome. A brilliant first attempt with all the ingredients of a good book, the best part being that it is refreshingly different form the run of mill romances by the English Indian Authors.
You can get more info about the book at http://rishivohra.com/

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