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Mumbai Fables

by Gyan Prakash Princeton University Press
Pub Date:
10/2011
ISBN:
9780691153179
Format:
Pbk 408 pages
Price:
AU$65.99 NZ$67.82
Product Status: Not Our Publication - we no longer distribute
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A place of spectacle and ruin, Mumbai exemplifies the cosmopolitan metropolis. It is not just a big city but also a soaring vision of modern urban life. Millions from India and beyond, of different ethnicities, languages, and religions, have washed up on its shores, bringing with them their desires and ambitions. Mumbai Fables explores the mythic inner life of this legendary city as seen by its inhabitants, journalists, planners, writers, artists, filmmakers, and political activists. In this remarkable cultural history of one of the world's most important urban centers, Gyan Prakash unearths the stories behind its fabulous history, viewing Mumbai through its turning points and kaleidoscopic ideas, comic book heroes, and famous scandals--the history behind Mumbai's stories of opportunity and oppression, of fabulous wealth and grinding poverty, of cosmopolitan desires and nativist energies.

Starting from the catastrophic floods and terrorist attacks of recent years, Prakash reaches back to the sixteenth-century Portuguese conquest to reveal the stories behind Mumbai's historic journey. Examining Mumbai's role as a symbol of opportunity and reinvention, he looks at its nineteenth-century development under British rule and its twentieth-century emergence as a fabled city on the sea. Different layers of urban experience come to light as he recounts the narratives of the Nanavati murder trial and the rise and fall of the tabloid Blitz, and Mumbai's transformation from the red city of trade unions and communists into the saffron city of Hindu nationalist Shiv Sena. Starry-eyed planners and elite visionaries, cynical leaders and violent politicians of the street, land sharks and underworld dons jostle with ordinary citizens and poor immigrants as the city copes with the dashed dreams of postcolonial urban life and lurches into the seductions of globalization.

Shedding light on the city's past and present, Mumbai Fables offers an unparalleled look at this extraordinary metropolis.


List of Illustrations ix

Chapter 1: THE MYTHIC CITY 1

Chapter 2: THE COLONIAL GOTHIC 25

Chapter 3: THE CITY ON THE SEA 75

Chapter 4: THE COSMOPOLIS AND THE NATION 117

Chapter 5: THE TABLOID AND THE CITY 158

Chapter 6: FROM RED TO SAFFRON 204

Chapter 7: PLANNING AND DREAMING 251

Chapter 8: AVENGER ON THE STREET 289

Chapter 9: DREAMWORLDS 325

Acknowledgments 349

Notes 353

Index 381

''The best test of a city's biography, like [Mumbai Fables], is whether it makes the reader want to visit of not. Those who do, having read this book, will have a perceptive, if quirky, insight as their guide.''--Times Literary Supplement

''Brilliant.''--William Dalrymple, Glasgow Herald (UK)

''[T]he most masterful history yet written about this celebrated, struggling city, a riveting narrative that reaches back to 1498 to explore the stories the metropolis has conspired to tell itself--and spun out for the world. . . . Prakash's Mumbai Fables sets a new standard in writing about cities, not just as a history of Mumbai but as an accessible history of any metropolis.''--Naresh Fernandes, Time Out Mumbai

''Princeton history professor Prakash weaves thrilling story lines about Bombay life depicted in movies, novels, and comic books with gripping true stories about the legendary Indian metropolis. . . . With an inviting style and inability to resist drama, Prakash creates lively portrayals of the major figures in the opium and cotton trades, the sensational reporting of the Blitz tabloid, and the horrific monsoons of the past decade.''--Publishers Weekly

''The strength of Mumbai Fables is its treasury of cultural references about the city, and in this, it excels. Novels, short stories, newspapers, films, poems, paintings; the unique flavor of the place comes through powerfully.''--Roderick Matthews, Literary Review

''Gyan Prakash chronicles Bombay with verve and panache. . . . [H]e has meshed different narratives of the city, and created a hybrid blend that is entirely in character with Bombay itself.''--Salil Tripathi, New Republic

''[T]he historian here is a first-rate storyteller.''--S. Prasannarajan, India Today
Gyan Prakash is the Dayton-Stockton Professor of History at Princeton University. He is the author of 'Bonded Histories' and 'Another Reason' (Princeton) and the editor of 'Noir Urbanisms'.