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Sunday, March 11, 2012

Review - Thrity Umrigar's BOMBAY TIME

I was waiting for this book for a very long time. Thrity Umrigar has been a favourite author of mine for ages and this book did not disappoint. The beauty of the story is that the doings of the families of Wadia Baug (a block of flats in Mumbai) are set amidst the wider scope of the Parsi community at large. You finally end up knowing quite a bit about Parsis in general and the residents of Wadia
Baug in particular.

The story is of Rusi a businessman whose dreams of becoming another Tata has failed. He is moderately successful but not to the extent that he wanted. We also have his embittered wife Coomi who cannot really pinpoint her animosity and anger towards her husband. She is just dissatisfied, bitter and angry at the turn of events. The story of Rusi and Coomi and their daughter Binny who has made a life for herself in England is set against the stories of Jimmy and the catalyst of the story is Jimmy's son's lavish wedding banquet.

The wedding forms the setting for the story of all who gather to celebrate the event. From Tehmi who married and who was widowed tragically after just three years of married bliss and who has almost withdrawn from the world, to Dosamai widowed with a married son who has moved as far away as possible from her, to the very happily married Bomi and Sheroo and Adi Patel who flits from one woman to another and is never satisfied we have the broad outlines of the people who inhabit the flats and how their lives have mingled from the time they were young couples and with growing children. Now the couples are middle aged and children married and they are introspective as to how their lives have changed and what their present focus in life is.

The story is representative also of the different stratas of society found in Mumbai. We have the Parsis generally considered a very educated, business minded community who are forward thinking, English educated and who consider themselves a cut above everyone else! Originally from Persia to escape persecution they sought refuge in Mumbai and ended up holding key positions in the civil service under the British. This consolidated their hold on society in Mumbai especially in the business sector. We have on the other hand the teeming poor of Mumbai waiting for the guests to finish eating so that they could partake of the remnants and for them the remnants were the feast. This seems to highlight the differences in this society which I presume remain to this day. It does not augur well for society in general when the gap between the haves and the have nots is so very wide.

I was so struck by the Parsi community that I want to do a bit of reading on this tiny community of under 80,000 (worldwide). The book gives you an insight into Parsi customs and traditions but it is a small intriguing  look only. The fascinating tradition regarding how Parsis view death and how they deal with death in their Towers of Silence is also fascinating reading.

Would highly recommend this book not just from a family story point of view, but also an insight into Mumbai and this small community still managing to survive maintaining all its traditions and customs.


  1. This sounds great. I really need to read something by Umrigar soon.

  2. Great review :) I had not heard about this one before

  3. I feel your passion! I like Umrigar a lot as well, and actually own this book, but haven't read it yet. I need to fix that.

  4. Hi Mystica.
    This sounds very different and interesting about the community. I like the idea of the wedding setting.
    Thanks for sharing.

  5. Oh, I'm glad you enjoyed this one. I read The World We Found, and I loved it! I really want to read more of her titles. Great review!

  6. This book is new to me, but I have heard of the author. I sounds like a wonderful read.

  7. I have absolutely loved the two Thrity Umrigar books I've read. I've been concerned that her others might not be able to live up to my fangirl crush. But it sounds like this one will not disappoint.