Saturday, January 05, 2013

Book Review - Once Upon the Tracks of Mumbai by Rishi Vohra

I don’t usually read romantic novels, but a few comments on the book intrigued me enough to read Once Upon the Tracks of Mumbai, a debut novel by Rishi Vohra. It promised to be a cross between romance and drama backed by some strong characterization. 

The Story
The story is partly narrated in the first person by the protagonist, Babloo who has ‘psychiatric problems’. The story revolves around Babloo who lives in a railway colony at Bandra with his parents and brother. He has managed to study and graduate but cannot find a job given his limitations. His parents dote on his ‘normal’ younger brother which Babloo resents. The only light he perceives in his dark life is Vandana, the ubiquitous girl next door who always has a kind word to say to him that sets his heart fluttering.

Babloo deeply in love with Vandana, takes the help of his sinister loafer friend Sikandar who is up to no good, to woo Vandana.  The story goes on about Babloo’s pining after Vandana,  Vandana’s quest for the perfect man and Babloo’s fantasy of a super hero ‘The Rail Man’.

My view
What worked -
What I liked was some of the typical things pointed out in the book around Indian families. Like the arranged marriage scenarios, compromising attitude of the girl’s parents, the importance given to the son who earned as compared to the one who did not, and a girl’s basic expectations of her life partner. 

Characterization -
Vandana’s character is well etched out as the typical ambitious middle-class Mumbai girl with strong values and expectations of a decent guy to marry who will care for her. I also liked the character of the kind taxi driver who saves the day once and that of Sikandar, Babloo’s wicked friend.  However, The author didn’t seem to make up his mind if to make Babloo autistic, schizophrenic or psychotic. So he labeled him as all three, despite the fact that Babloo could do pretty much everything! I am sure it is difficult to get into the mind of someone who is mentally challenged, and I am not sure if the author scored really well on this count.  

Narration –
The book started off with a first person narration which seemed to work well, but later wavered between third person and the first person which I found a bit distracting. The language was lucid and descriptions were vivid. The pace was good and kept me hooked to finish the book in one sitting.

The story was not bad at all as compared to many Indian authors I have recently read – it had all the elements required in a Bollywood potboiler which I strongly suspect was the main reason behind writing this book! There was romance, drama, action, and some good characters audiences might like, but what is required importantly was a strong reality check!  I didn't really concur with the end, which seemed highly unrealistic to me, but well, it was expected right at the beginning of the book! All in all, this book provided a few hours of entertainment and will certainly make a worthy film not unlike My name is Khan.

My rating for the book is 3 stars out of 5.

About the Author
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. Having been a guest columnist for various newspapers in India, he currently writes for delWine and is a Certified Specialist of Wine. This is his first novel. Visit for more information.

1 comment:

  1. Nice review. :)

    I had also reviewed it; I liked the chracterization very much.