Monday, February 07, 2005

Maximum City

Suketu Mehta's astonishing story of Bombay, "Maximum City" is now out in the UK and was reviewed on Saturday in the Times.

This should be a depressing and disturbing book. The relentless thuggery and brutality of the street life that he describes is harrowing, and the venal corruption of the police and politicians implies an irredeemable civic breakdown.

Somehow however you come away from the book with an impression of the unquenchable vitality of the city and its inhabitants. At one part Mehta tentatively proposes a parallel between Mumbai's robust politics with the US Democratic party politial machines like Tammany Hall in New York in the latter part of the 19th Century, and perhaps that does offer a glimmer of hope that the process may evolve into something better.

This BBC report of slum clearances in Annabhau Sattenagar last week suggests nothing is going to change soon.
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