Kaul. Ajay. “Mumbai Matinee”, CreateSpace, 2017.
Mumbai Through Stories
The eight interconnected stories of Ajay Kaul’s “Mumbai Matinee” show the life and culture around the city of Mumbai. Ajay who comes from North India had no idea of what to expect when he moved to urban Mumbai. The culture shock of the dynamic city takes getting used to. He’s captivated, though, and soon falls in love with Mumbai and its many inhabitants. In is the city where he will find love, friendship, and community yet he is aware that there is also danger and the threat of disaster.
It all began in 1993, when Ajay came to Mumbai on a short assignment. He was quickly pulled into the shock wave of the 1993 serial bombings. Despite a brush with death, Ajay was determined to learn the secrets of the city.
After graduation, he came back and found new stories in the city’s streets. Ajay met an interfaith couple that taught him about the power of love, a local labor leader who was more than he seemed, and an acting teacher. He also had troubling experiences and there was one that pushed him beyond his comfort zone and taught him to love his adopted city and all it had to offer.
While this is a memoir, it is also a guide to Indian philosophy and a look at how the corporate world affects society. We really become aware of how much Mumbai has grown of late and we also get a peek at the impact of global terrorism and violence on this notoriously peaceful center of our planet (as seen through Ajay’s eyes). This also happens to be one of those books in which you feel the presence of the author throughout— so much so that I was surprised he was not sitting opposite me when I looked up. (Yes I know that is an exaggeration).
I really enjoyed reading about how the was able to bring the ancient customs into the modern world. In effect, Ajay introduces us to India and he does so with enthusiasm. It was really enlightening for me since I know nothing about India. The short stories might be fiction but they are based on Ajay’s real experiences and each one is a gem.
Because Ajay was living in Mumbai during some of the terrorist bombings, his descriptions of the dangers and the joy of watching people help each other during the danger really brings terrorism home.
Ajay’s memoir is memoir well written and fascinating. One of the wonderful things about reading is that we learn so much and here in just 200 pages I found myself becoming familiar with a place I had never been or even read about. I truly enjoyed Ajay’s observations and descriptions and I look forward to reading more by him. As I said earlier, the stories are interconnected but the characters are not. I am sure that this is intentional as I believe jay wanted to show a city with many different personalities and how they often disappear. Such is life.