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Bookshelf - Maximum City & City of Djinns

In the past couple of months I have completed two books on the two most major and influential cities of India - Maximum City and City of Djinns. The latter was to get to know more about my new city while the former was a continuation to get to know my home city a little more.

Maximum City : Bombay Lost & Found

Widely considered “The book” on Mumbai, Maximum City goes through a detailed journey of Suketu Mehta on his quest to find what makes Bombay the most enchanting city in the country (and in the world for a lot of people). The book is divided into three parts - Power, Pleasure and Passages. Each exploring a different aspect of the city and it’s relationship with people.

I found the first part the most engrossing and interesting - “Power” has a lot of history in it; from rent control act of 1947 to the riots that shook the city. It covers events and people that are still relevant to this day. If you want to know the grimy details of the underworld, politics and policing of the city this can be a good start. Unfortunately, the second part, “Pleasure”, became downright boring about half way through. I felt that the author added details that weren’t really needed. The third part has some really interesting people in it and reading it is not a drag but nothing extraordinary too. Though, it does describe well the daily struggles of common people.

As an outsider, it was only the first part which made me feel like I was part of an adventure of unlocking mysteries of the city.

In conclusion, a good read. Dense with information and lot of interesting characters but, a lot of times the passages become unnecessary long. Would still recommend to anyone who wants to read about Mumbai.

City of Djinns : A Year in Delhi

Delhi is an old city. It has been destroyed and rebuilt several times. it has gone through so much violence, plundered by invaders, abused by rulers and yet, it still stands. Written as a travel log, William Dalrymple goes through all the historical layers of the city, going through the times of Mahabharat, various rulers across the centuries to the anti-sikh riots of 1984.

A great read to grasp the historical aspect of this old, grand, ever changing city. It doesn’t make much effort to understand the people of Delhi who resided at the time of Author’s stay int he city. It is pretty much about Delhi of ancient times rather than the contemporary one. The city has changed a lot after the opening up of the country’s economy and this book, understandably, does not cover that.

The most notable part of reading City of Djinns was when the author mentions the burning of the Gurudwara at Sujjan Singh Park. It gave a sense of Deja Vu from Khushwant Singh’s Delhi which ended with the same Gurudwara being burnt along with its priest. It gave a feeling of both the books being part of a series, complementing each other.