chapter  4
21 Pages

The city as thing

WithRob Sullivan

This chapter marks an abrupt turn: Intended as an examination of the city as thing, the idea is turned on its head, and we examine the city as thing/not. Mumbai is chosen as the example, as it is one of the liveliest cities on the planet and therefore an excellent foil to the misguided notion that the city is a mere thing. Using the work of such writers as Salman Rushdie, Katherine Boo, Anjali Joseph, Jerry Pinto, Rohinton Mistry, and Vikram Chandra, it becomes indisputable that the city is so full of lively transformations it could never be mistaken for a piece of obdurate materialism. The Bollywood stars of Mumbai, the city’s gangsters, its infamous slums, and Mumbai’s arcane and enigmatic familiarity with all that is religious and supernatural also prove that the city and thing are not compatible concepts. More mundane subjects are also plumbed to demonstrate that thingliness and the city are incompatible; for instance, the existence of love, regret, and shame are amorphous feelings but very real. The array of encounters available in the city of Mumbai, from seduction to pugilism to dancing to “Country and Eastern” music to a deep appreciation of art from Beethoven to tabla playing to the films of Satyajit Ray – these are also some of the elements used to disprove the thesis of city as thing.