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Suketu Mehta Speaks
Emily Gertz, 4 Mar 05

SuketuMehta.jpg I'm still on the library waiting list for Maximum City: Bombay Lost and Found. But I just came across this conversation with author Suketu Mehta in The Brooklyn Rail, a great independent arts and culture magazine produced here in Brooklyn (naturally).

Mehta lived in Bombay until he was 14, and went on to become a writer in America. He returned in 1998 both an insider and an outsider, and has produced what by all accounts is a fascinating look at a city in the grips of globalization: new wealth and industry juxtaposed with endemic poverty and corruption.

Rail: India became a part of the “global village” in 1991 when the current prime minister and then chief finance minister Manmohan Singh engineered economic reforms to liberalize the country’s quasi-socialist economy. How has globalization affected Bombay?

Mehta: What I came to realize in Bombay was how globalization can both help and hurt Bombay. It hurts Bombay when it’s impossible for an Indian farmer to make a living because of the current system of agricultural trade that we have in the world. But one thing globalization did was create what we’re often told will be the world’s biggest middle class. So at the same time, I don’t want to knock globalization. If you’re in the slums and you have a son, what did he do before globalization? Work in a textile factory or something. Now he can go into an air-conditioned office and he can sit in front of a computer, programming. It helps when you have these call centers and software industries.…The problem is, it’s a hypocritical globalization.

Bollywood fan blog Sepia Mutiny linked Mehta's report from the set on an Indian film shoot, Welcome to Bollywood in the February issue of National Geographic--the online feature includes behind the scenes photos (requires Flash) by William Albert Allard, and a report on Pakistan's film industry, Lollywood.

(Whoops--and so did Alex, here.)

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It's a superb book. Highly recommended.

I excerpt a tiny bit from it in my post on India which can be found at

Posted by: Zaid on 4 Mar 05

Thanks for the pointer, Zaid.

Posted by: Emily Gertz on 4 Mar 05

I don't believe a book of nonfiction can get any better than this. I read it before bed, and I find myself, throughout the day, looking forward to the half hour or hour I spend with it each night. When I finish this book I may very well start it all over again (I bought it) - even with all the other great books out there still begging to be read. It's that damn good. Ironic, isn't it, that so much of the best writing in English now comes not from English speaking countries, where television has all but destroyed our facility with the tongue, but fron the "colonies," where literacy is still a "family value."

Posted by: paul on 6 Mar 05

hm, isn't the U.S. a colony, too?!

anyway...maybe I will splurge on the hardcover, and have MC to read during upcoming travels.

Posted by: Emily Gertz on 9 Mar 05



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