When it comes to my city, I am totally in love with it. It is like a litmus test, if you can survive you succeed or else you won’t ever look back. Having born and brought up in Mumbai, I felt a natural affiliation towards Jaina Sanga’s collection of short stories, Train To Bombay. I had received this in the hamper which I won for Hindustan Times’ #BrunchBookChallenge. But of course, I had a problem with the name Bombay, because it is that for the outsiders and the elite. The true spirit of Mumbai lies in the sweat and grim shed by every Mumbaikar. You can read my views on this topic, here. Not digressing too much, I was still attracted towards this book and I finished all the seven stories last night.
I shall give an overview and my opinion about each story, without divulging the story, below and post that I shall discuss the other aspects of the book.
1. The Good Price
It wasn’t as amusing as I thought it will be. The reference to the deities seemed futile. You assume there might be some twist but there isn’t any, except for the heated scene between Tarachand and his client. It sure seemed like author’s attempt to add an oomph factor.
2. When Elephants Gallop
This one is absolutely clever use of Kipling’s quotes. It is utmost heartwarming tale. It speaks for those immigrants of Mumbai who have this never-say-die attitude. It gets you involved with the character of Hazrath and his unrequited love.
3. Welcome In Mumbai
Go beyond the grammer, I say and look at the feelings. This one is about liberation when trapped in a patriarchal and rigid setup. Things seem liberal but at the crux of it we all are quite reserved.
4. A Small Kindness
I love this balancing act of the author because as dry the predecessor seems the story that follows leaves a beautiful sense in your heart. Speaking of this one, it seems like an art house short film. Sanga amuses me with a heart touching story. Amongst the bunch, this one, has a wonder filled climax.
5. People Are Like That Only
The story with a backdrop of Bollywood’s film industry makes a decent read. From the rumbling of the trains we take a ferry to Alibag and settle there for the rest of the story. The beginning of the story had me thinking that I was perhaps going to read about the love triangle of Waheeda Rehman, Gurudutt and Geeta Dutt but it wasn’t so.
6. Sea Link
Now, the author speaks of a time period we live in. The story is set in the times immediately after the Bandra – Worli sea link was unveiled/ made open for commuting. The story speaks about overcoming your temptations. It speaks about how a moment of carnal desire could have “wrecked” the life of a naval officer. Was there a symbolic significance given to the relationship of Navik, the naval officer and Hemant, a pilot, I don’t know. But it certainly led Navik towards his downfall.
7. Train To Bombay
This is the story after which the book is named. However, it fails to live up to my expectations. I makes up for a decent read, though.
Now, coming to the other aspects of the book. The language of the author is lucid, the writing style, intelligent and overall it is quite engaging. Jaina Sanga makes clever usage of Hinglish throughout the book. She ably gives the vintage Bombay feel and sweeps us up with a clean, breezy Mumbai too.
There’s a particular motif she uses in her writing which makes her stories lively. Sometimes it adds sardonic humor to it and sometimes wrenches our hearts. To give us a clarity about the time period, the author will often refer to a particular film of the era or a news.
I believe that short stories are quite potent and they do leave a strong after taste. While some stories make you ponder, there are others that are warm. So it is a nice balance of emotions to find here. What disappointed me, however, was the fact that most stories are set in SoBo and though it is one plush locality we all would like to be in, the real Mumbai breaths in it’s suburbs, which in my opinion, the author could have explored.
Overall, the author adeptly brings out the varied colours of my colourful city and that’s endearing.
On the scale of readability, I rate it 8 on 10.
How much rating will I give this one? 3.5 out of 5 stars.
If you have read this one, do let me know your views in the comment box below.