Book: Once Upon The Tracks of Mumbai
Author: Rishi Vohra
Publication: Jaico Publishing House
“I stood in the centre of the first railway track and looked in both directions. Being alone on the tracks gave me a complete sense of freedom. I never thought that the merciless Mumbai railways could in any part make me feel that way. These were the same tracks that had disturbed my sleep over the years. And now, they brought me such calmness.”
This novel is set within a railway colony, beside the railway tracks as the name aptly suggests. The moment I read the realistic descriptions of a railway colony, I kind of connected with the novel, having spent many years of my life there.
Place an “autistic, schizophrenic and psychotic’ protagonist within these surroundings and you have a novel blending railway atmosphere with a mind longing to connect with the world just like the railway tracks do.
Babloo, the protagonist is lost in a world that does not understand him, that does not even wish to acknowledge his presence. Confused, humiliated by it all, he lives his life the way he knows best – having conversations in his head which is the only manner he can retain his sense of sanity. At least in the way he wants to.
“Each day was as empty as the next. Neither did I have a Sunday to look forward to nor did I have friend’s birthday to dress up for.”
Only two things matter to Babloo:
Vandana, a neighbor in the railway colony “who treats him the way he wants the world to see him” and
Rail Man – “a fearless, real-life hero who succeeds in doing all that Babloo secretly wishes to do.”
Unlike other novels where a character like Babloo’s – (a mentally challenged psyche) dominates the entire book, the author Rishi Vohra makes Babloo delve with the surroundings. You don’t see him as some alien creature who you invariably pity. Instead, you feel sympathetic but there is no over-doing of emotions for him.
In his own little way, he tries to understand the world making you want to walk the talk with him. What I liked best was the intimacy expressed between the main characters, that is gentle and sweet. What could have been avoided though, were certain explicit scenes of love-making expressed elsewhere between some other characters. Although, it is a fact that characters like Sikander with his highly charged libido do exist in this world!
In many ways, Babloo’s loneliness and is inner queries remind us of what we are in reality. While he behaves the way he does because he cannot help it and because that his nature – many people like us don on the masks of good living and righteous values – none of which we really are!
Rishi Vohra recently relocated back to Mumbai after completing a Green MBA from San Francisco State University and a Masters Diploma in Environmental Law, prior to which he had a successful career in the Indian Entertainment industry. After featuring as a guest columnist for various newspapers in India, he currently writers for delWine and is a Certified Specialist of Wine (CSW).
Once Upon The Tracks of Mumbai is his debut novel.