Sunday, September 22, 2013

Review of "Never Mind Yaar" by K. Mathur

I received this book for review under the Blogadda Bookreviews program. Published by Southpac Publishers, Wellington, New Zealand, in 2012,  by K Mathur, the Mumbai born author, who lives there.

A  fairly quick read of 220 pages , this edition of the book, omits a section of Indian/Mumbai  phrases (with meanings),  which would ordinarily enlighten the foreign reader.

The story revolves around  college life in Mumbai, and the experiences of 3 girls, Shalini, Binaifer, and Louella who have just joined college. The three belong to very different backgrounds. Bianifer is a Parsi who lives in Grant Road, a southern suburb of Mumbai. Louella, a Christian , whose parents moved to Mumbai from Goa lives in Bandra , a very popular western suburb. Shalini, belongs to a typical class of folks, who are oblivious of public transport, and move around in chauffeured splendor.  It is also the story of their very idealistic classmate called Bhagu, who is attracted equally, by Shalini, and public service.  Dotted across the narrative are typical vignettes of college life in India; hanging out at the Canteen, debating clubs, old respected profs, and so on.

The narrative flows beautifully , describing the friendship of the 3 girls, with some special sections outlining the history of Parsis and Christians  and their arrival in Mumbai . Shalini belongs to a very well off, rich family from Rajasthan , where the matriarch grandma still rules by remote control, while the parents are professionals trained and working in Mumbai .  How Bhagu and Shalini get involved, their individual ambitions and interests causing  occasional separations, and their individual ways of handling these. How Shalini must straddle the two different worlds  at home and at college, and Bhagu's trial by fire as he takes on the Canteen mafia in the initial stages.  A story about families that have several servants and retainers, and how, sometimes,  they take security for granted, when it isn't.

 But as someone , who went to college in Mumbai, and whose children also did the same, I had some queries.  Binaifer Desai is supposed to live in a 2 bedroom "cottage" in Grant Road.  Perhaps this is just literary licence, since one doesn't see those in Grant Road.  It isn't clear where the college is situated, but talk of isolated lanes behind the college (in the evenings at 7 ) etc tend to point to something similar to St Xaviers.  With such a detailed profiling of the girls,  it puzzles me as to why Bhagu manages to traipse through the narrative without a last name.

The reference to a new popular peoples' party which Bhagu  joins does bring to mind actual political happenings in 2012 in India.  So does the reference to the Mumbai bomb blasts and the riots and these are expertly woven into the narrative.

What I find missing is a sense of Maharashtrian ethos, which is so much a part of Mumbai. So many Marathi speaking kids attend colleges in Mumbai, including the very hi-fi ones. So many college canteens have traditional local food which is greatly patronized by the students. There is an entire life that happens in suburban trains and public transport, where students  mix seamlessly and make friends .   If the idea was to give an impression of college life in Mumbai, there is something clearly missing. 

Although, this is a work of fiction,  the author does provide a background of various communities and their history in Mumbai. It would have been useful, if there was reference to Mumbai's problem of massive immigration from internal regions, seeking of jobs, the inability to handle a differently standardized life, the demonic living conditions, the helplessness , the formation of slums and gundas, and the conditions that make an erstwhile chauffeur suddenly give in to his baser instincts when it all becomes too much to mentally handle.

An expertly woven story, well written,  but sometimes, it is not the Mumbai I know.  

Having said that,  it is a story you enjoy, particularly the ending. Which one shall not reveal.

A  3.5/5 ....

This review is a part of the biggest Book Review Program for Indian Bloggers. Participate now to get free books!

1 comment:

  1. Born and bred in Mumbai, I think I should have a look at it. Sounds interesting.