One day, when was checking my inbox, I saw a message from Rishi Vohra I asking me to review his book, “Once upon the Tracks of Mumbai”. The blurb was very engrossing and I replied saying that I would like to review his book and received an autographed copy from the author.
“Autistic. Schizophrenic. Psychotic…”
“They” use these words to describe Babloo – the doctors, his family, his teachers everyone… except Vandana. She treats him the way he wants the world to see him.
Mumbai… the city that defines his ultimate desires. Will it allow him the love and normalcy he so craves?
Vandana… yearns for a soul mate to rescue her from the confines of the Railway Colony they all live in. Is she looking in the right place?
Rail Man… a fearless, real-life hero who succeeds in doing all that Babloo secretly wishes to do… is Babloo his inspiration or… is it the other way around?
A random twist of fate on Mumbai’s endless, serpent-like, jangling local train tracks ties all these characters together in a complex weave of love, heartbreak, and courage.
Babloo draws the reader into his fascinating, heart-rending journey through the twisted, choked lanes of Mumbai, into an open space where he can finally exhale, be born again.
It is the story of Balwant Srivastav, Babloo, 24, the older unemployed son of Amar and Sudha Srivastav, who live in the railway quarters located next to the Bandra Station in Mumbai. His brother, Raghu, younger to him by nine months is educated, has a job and hence, their parents are fond of him.
When he was small, Babloo was diagnosed with autism, has difficulty to grasp difficult words, has to re-read to understand a passage, graduates in double the time and has no job and as a result, he grows up to be a neglected child, both by his family and people around him. He has no friends and his only friend is his inner voice. He has no control over anger, never gets bored alone, dreams of becoming a great person and making his parents proud of him. He never forgets places and feels that people who stroll have no purpose in life. He finds it difficult to talk to people and solves his problems himself by doing a quick Q & A session with ‘his best friend’, himself. He loves the drink, Thumbs up and his favourite actor is Riyaz Khan.
Vandana Gupta, the 21 year old daughter of Madhu and Shekhar Gupta, the senior most officer in the Bandra railway office, lives in the same colony. She is beautiful, intelligent, and cultured girl. She is traditional yet modern and has a presence of mind. She is ambitious and wants to make a name for herself in the advertising world. She is enamoured by America after reading about it in books.
Vandana is the only person who is concerned about Babloo and talks to him. He admires her, loves her and wants to marry her and dreams of living with her, after marriage, in their own apartment by the sea. He loves to walk with her to and from the station when she goes to work.
Sikander, the leader of a notorious group of Mahesh, Madan and Pravin, owns the local cable network and a car. He and his gang are on the lookout for trapping innocent girls from the colony and their new target is Vandana. In order to trap her, the make use of Babloo’s friendship with her and his innocence, telling him that they are befriending her so that they can tell her that Babloo loves her.
Babloo meets Manjit Singh, a Sikh taxi driver in his mid 30s at a Dhaba who tells him that no job is small and Babloo takes up a job. One incident makes him a hero, the Railman, and Babloo realizes that Railman reflects the person he truly is and Babloo is his mask.
He author has done an excellent job about bringing to light as to what goes on in the minds of people with psychological difficulties and how by changing our attitude towards them and supporting them, we can bring them back into the mainstream of the society.
He has written about the life in Mumbai from the point o view of a Mumbaikar.
A very mature work by a debut author, would love to see this being made into a movie- only then would a greater segment of the society be able to appreciate the work behind the novel.
The flow is smooth from first person to third person and the language used is very simple.
The epilogue is beautiful and makes us realize that circumstances are a very important cause for psychological ailments.
The negatives: Only Editorial mistakes: Page 97, para 2, Yadav has been mentioned in place of Srivastav and on page 220, para 4, Madhu is mentioned instead of Vandana.
OVERALL, AN EXCELLENT JOB DONE.
Book Source: An autographed copy from the author, many thanks to him for writing such a wonderful book and sending me a copy for review
Publisher: Jaico Books