Friday, June 05, 2009

Book 60: Bombay Time

Bombay Time by Thrity Umrigar

In ways, this novel has a similar set up to Olive Kitteridge, since it is about many intersecting characters and told from several different view points. In this case, however, Umrigar uses one event to tell the story of a community, or more specifically neighborhood/housing area.

The wedding of an young Parsi man brings together a group of neighbors, and the wedding reception serves as a time for the older attendants to reflect on their lives. Some, such as the groom's father, Jimmy, can look back at a successful life, while others wonder if perhaps they made the wrong choices and wasted their life. Rusi, who is the closest thing to a main character in the novel, has seen many of his dreams fall apart and suffered many other disappointments. Despite the passion he and his wife initially felt, he has watched their marriage disintegrate over the years.

While these characters of the Waudia Bag have faced many hardships and tragedies, Umrigar also reminds the readers that they are still very well set up compared to many in the city. Juxtaposed with these middle class men and women who have doubts about the future are the poor of Bombay who can't even feed themselves and whose lives can be determined by a word from people like Jimmy. She also uses one character to explore the situation in some rural communities and how landowners continue to have extreme power over the workers. While Umrigar mainly reminds the readers and her characters of the other side of Bombay in one of the later chapters, the poor she portrayed reminded me of the novel The White Tiger. While I definitely enjoyed this novel, if anyone is interested in how the other half lives, that book is also worth the read.

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