Once Upon The Tracks of Mumbai: a Review

After Chetan Bhagat got famous, there were a lot of IIT-related books. Books on teenage crush, amorous biographies & fictions with really bizarre titles flooded the market. Very few actually made sense & could be termed ‘literature’. Thankfully Indian authors are now breaking free from the Bollywood style writing & attempting their pens at new genres. For example Tantra by Adi (read review here).

Once Upon The Tracks of Mumbai falls under this category. Yes there is a love story complete with a hero, a heroine & villain yet Rishi Vohra’s choice of protagonist is what makes it different. This is the story of Babloo, eldest son of a respected clerk at the railways, a shy young man who doesn’t speak much & likes to mind his own business. Very average kind of guy with a small problem- he is autistic, can’t stay attentive for long, may be schizophrenic & probably psychotic. No he is not ‘mad’. He is just unable to express himself as easily as we do. He likes to keep quiet because he hates useless ‘small talk’. Rishi Vohra has provided a first person narrative for his characters & what goes inside Babloo’s head is simply amazing. I loved the clarity of Babloo’s thoughts, the logic and reasons that govern his actions and the very simplicity of them!

Babloo’s family consists of his parents & a younger brother. The term ‘family’ is too elaborate to describe their relationship with Babloo-who’s presence is treated akin to a time bomb about to blow off. His brother couldn’t care less, his condition causing him to a fail a class multiple times means he has no real friends. All he has is a friendly neighbourhood girl Vandana to talk to. She doesn’t seem to mind his awkward silences & behaviour and for Babloo, she is the only one for him. But Vandana has her own problems too. Pursued by the local Romeo, being forced into a marital alliance with a man she can never see eye to eye with, asked to abandon her dream before it even begun, she is stranded between being a good Indian daughter & standing up for her rights.

The characters created by Rishi Vohra are very convincing & real. Babloo’s parents who can’t accept their son because he is ‘different’, Vandana’s orthodox parents who believe getting a good education for their daughter & then handing her off to someone else ends their duty, the teenaged loves-truck gullible Sonal and the villain in this story Sikander- you see these people and know them in real life.

Once Upon The Tracks of Mumbai is feel-good story with a happy ending. The story isn’t exactly gripping or a thriller, more like you’re reading the thoughts of the protagonist & watching him everyday. Yet there are many messages hidden inside this rather average tale. The metamorphosis of Babloo into ‘Rail Man’ signifies that it’s never too late to start anew. His dedication for Vandana would make you start believing in love again. This book is different & I think it deserves a chance. If you wish to break free of the romantic-IIT-MBA genre & read something fresh, I recommend Once Upon The Tracks of Mumbai.
For more on the book & the author visit www.rishivohra.com


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