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‘Maya Nagari’ book review: Quest for the Quotidian

There are few cities in our country that have been reimagined in pop culture the way Mumbai has. Bollywood alone had revisited it time and again to establish its status as the city of dreams; one that never sleeps, creating a mirage-of-sorts that has, over the years, compelled people to flock to the Chhatrapati ShivajiMaharaj Terminus. But, Maya Nagari, edited by Shanta Gokhale and Jerry Pinto, takes the road less taken to create a non-uniform image of the metropolis.

Here, Mumbai is stripped off its twinkle; it is deglamourised to reveal how it’s the quotidian that lends the city its character—warmth and hostility alike.

Baburao Bagul’s ‘Woman of the Street’, written originally in Marathi as ‘Vatevarchi’, is an example. Translated into English by Gokhale, it tells the story of Girija, a sex-worker, who receives a telegram with a dreaded message, forcing her to return to her village. But, to make the journey, she needs money. The story ends on a disturbing note, as it reaffirms the relativity of success.

Then, there’s Udayan Thakker’s Gujarati story ‘Pandoba’. In a few paragraphs, the two-page story evocatively questions the act of romanticisation, which really holds little to no value for someone who comes from the working class, and is trying to survive in this cruel city.

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