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Mumbai Fables


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Table of Contents

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

About the Author

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".


"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 "The book is ... accessible and will interest even the lay reader with its stories that illumine Bombay's past. Essential reading for anyone interested in a deeper understanding of Mumbai."--Ravi Shenoy, Library Journal "A majestic work of history... Search for a single dull paragraph or a mildly boring chapter and you will be frustrated and defeated... There is serious history here, which is very readable, and there is serious history of sex, murder, and scams reminiscent of the works of the novelist James Ellroy."--Arthur J. Pais, India Abroad "Etching out the cultural history of one of the world's most important urban centers, Gyan Prakash views Mumbai through its turning points and kaleidoscopic ideas, comic book heroes, and famous scandals. Shedding light on the city's past and present, Mumbai Fables offers an unparalleled look at this extraordinary metropolis."--Srirekha Chakravarty, India Post "A delight... Mumbai's history is almost as full of crime, corruption, terror, and chauvinism as of fabulous creativity. In Prakash's account, rightly, it is the latter which predominates."--Stephen Howe, Independent (UK) "[Prakash] has been able to pull together an impressive amount of facts, figures, and fables by devoting himself to sources such as novels, poems, films, interviews, tabloid accounts and even comic-book illustrations."--Bharti Kirchner, Seattle Times "Reading Mumbai Fables, you can get the sense of the linear timeline, the Bombay to Mumbai, England to India, with a jagged Partition down the middle... But going from A to B won't help you understand how that happened. Prakash uses the act of collage to give the reader a better perspective... Masterful... I think Prakash gets closer to a true picture of what Mumbai is--if a city is anything."--Jessa Crispin, Smart Set "I recommend you read Mumbai Fables. And then, crack a beer and watch a Hindi film."--Amitava Kumar, "[An] excellent account of Mumbai... This is an insider's view of one of India's most exciting and unusual cities. It is a reminder of how much deeper a local can go and how much more valuable such a guide can be. If you are planning a visit to Mumbai this is a superb introduction."--Bruce Elder, Sydney Morning Herald "The real and rapid development currently taking place in India offers new hope, but it will take dreamers as well as business leaders to fashion a new modernity for the masses rather than just the elites. Mumbai Fables points to one good place to start."--Dolan Cummings, "Gyan Prakash's Mumbai Fables is a thing of beauty. Trawling the archives as fl?neur and walking the city's past as historian, Prakash reads the city as palimpsest. He pays homage to the seductive power of myths about Mumbai and its earlier avatar Bombay--the city of free enterprise, the efficient city, the cosmopolitan city, the liberal city, the modern city--while illuminating the troubled histories and lowly origins from which the myths emerge."--Rohit Chopra, Sunday Guardian "Mumbai Fables is an engaging narrative, and offers a different way for urban historians to write the biography of a city. But it will have more to offer for those familiar with the city, for whom the gleam of recognition will be a benefit."--Katrina Gulliver, Berlin Review of Books "Utilizing popular literature, movies, comics, and art as metaphors for Mumbai's (Bombay's) history, historian Prakash interprets the history and allure of Mumbai from its early days as a collection of small islands containing an equally small population to its contemporary attempts to become a 'world class city.'"--Choice "[I]n Mumbai Fables, Prakash has managed to write a riveting account, which is very much his own... Each story is so well-told that it is impossible to put the book down."--Jaya Bhattacharji Rose, Businessworld "[T]his is an immensely readable book. In a highly informative and innovative style Prakash presents both a popular urban history and a sophisticated interpretation of that history, without compromising content, style or concept."--Arnab Roy Chowdhury, Contemporary South Asia "Mumbai Fables is a wonderfully entertaining introduction to the city's rich cultural history."--Lisa Kaaki, Arab News

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