“A delightful documentation of the history of Mumbai” is the best way to describe a book titled Mumbai Fables authored by historian Gyan Prakash. This work of non-fiction beautifully narrates the tale of the extreme metamorphosis this city has undergone to eventually become the “financial capital” of India. Furthermore, this book covers the history of the city from the inside as seen by its inhabitants. And so, here is presenting an analysis as to why “Mumbai Fables” is such an excellent read.
a. The plot of Mumbai Fables:
The basic plot of this non-fiction book revolves around the gradually overall development of Mumbai city. Beginning from floods that affected the city right until all the recent terrorist attacks in the city, the plot of this book covers it all. It also traces the history of Mumbai under the Portuguese rule which was soon followed by the British Raj in the 19th century. The changing “political” scenario in the city has also been highlighted beautifully through rise of the right wing political outfit Shiv Sena. In addition, this book also illustrates the “gossip” element of the city by exploring the infamous Nanavati Case and its coverage by then famous tabloid Blitz. Above all, the plot of this wonderful book also involves a detailed explanation involving the planning of this city known to fulfill “dreams”. In addition, this book unravels the popularity and the effect that “Jazz” music had on the city of Mumbai during the beginning of the 20th century. The profound effect of the city in the production of Hindi movies is another aspect that has been discussed in this book.
b. The “writing style” of Mumbai Fables:
“Simple and crisp” would be the best way to describe the writing style of the author. Using the “third person” narrative to great effect Gyan brilliantly manages to flesh out the gradual development of Mumbai into a “City that fulfills dreams”.
c. The “Bombay connection” to Mumbai Fables:
“The legend of Mumbai city” is what this book basically explains in details. It is through the use of wonderful writing that Gyan deciphers the gradual growth of this city. He also manages to explain the rich colonial past of Mumbai under the Portuguese and then the British Raj eloquently. This book also manages to illustrate the myth surrounding this city through eyes of journalists, filmmakers, politicians etc. It also helps unveiling the “gossip mongering” that plays a huge part in the city culture by exploring the Nanavati case, and the role played by a tabloid called “Blitz” in it. Apart from the “socioeconomic” changes this book also brilliantly analyzes the radical “political change” that the city underwent during the mid 20th century.
Having read a few books on Mumbai, I can confidently say that if a reader intends to connect the “past” of this city with its “present” then “Mumbai Fables” is a must read book.