Book Review: Once Upon The Tracks Of Mumbai

There are numerous stories on Bombay; intriguing tales enveloping the by-lanes of the city that are waiting to be heard. But when similar stories are churned out, it gets tedious for the reader to flip through the pages.

Although the blurb of Rishi Vohra’s debut novel Once Upon The Tracks Of Mumbai seemed like it would be an interesting read, sadly it leaves you disappointed. An autistic 24-year old guy, who is aware that he is different, finds himself in a flux when he tries to connect with people. While his parents and his elder sibling along with the folks from his Railway Colony fail to understand him, there is only one among these many who values him as a human. With such a write-up, you wouldn’t expect everything to boil down to story that has elements of love and heartbreak. We were expecting more than just a simple love drama between the protagonist and the lead lady.

The book has drama unfolding in every page, sometimes to such an extent that it puts off the reader. We love drama, we honestly do. But when the same show is put up on different occasions, things are bound to go off track.

Babloo Srivastav is your average Mumbaikar but he suffers from autism. He lives in a society that banishes him and greets him with raised eyebrows. The only one who behaves differently with him is Vandana, a girl who thinks her knight in shining armour will make an appearance in her life, which revolves around the dream of staying in the U.S. And like every story, there is an antagonist; in this one, it’s the local cable operator Sikander.

The story moves on at the same pace, even when Babloo meets with an incident that supposedly changes his life and exposes him to the harsh realities of the city. Although there are curves to the otherwise straight plot, the book might fail to hold your attention for long. The book has predictable twists and turns and is filled with clichéd main characters. The author clearly didn’t seem keen to experiment much with the story he had in his hand.

Considering it’s the first novel written by the author, the book has neatly chalked out characters and has a simple language. However the style of writing leaves much to be desired. The book can be praised for picking up a sensitive topic but on the other hand it is not been shaped with an intensity that it demands.

We are cynical about the response the book might generate. Depending on the kind of reader you are, it might be an interesting revelation of how people suffering from autism and dyslexia have to fight against prejudice voices or it might simply fall short of all your expectations.

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