If you have an Amazon Prime account you have access to some free books on Kindle. Most of these are mostly self-help books. I was in-between books recently and happened to browse through the list. That’s where I found this book called Milk Teeth by Amrita Mahale. I have not really read many Indian authors but decided to pick this one only because I was at a loose end. I have to say I was not disappointed.
The book is set in the early 1990s and is about Ira, a journalist on the city beat with one of the top leading dialies in Mumbai. The story is told against the backdrop of a building in Matunga, Asha Niwas, heading for redevelopment and the struggle of its nine resident families. As Ira’s story progresses, so does the drama at Asha Niwas. Ira is torn between her childhood friend Kartik and her one and only love Kaiz. Kartik and Kaiz form two polars in Ira’s life but both leave her behind when they set-off in their own quests. Kartik, a friend, confidant, almost a sibling. As a teenager Ira imagined herself in love with him and was sure they were meant for each other. But he left, leaving Ira alone and confused. Kaiz, the one who made her heart melt, burn with desire, only to break it into a thousand pieces when he left without an explanation. But now both were back and Ira finds herself pulled in different directions, propelled by her longing for an old friend and a desire that still runs deep. But things are not that simple, because both Kaiz and Kartik have their secrets to come to term with, their own battles to win. As the drama at Asha Niwas comes to a boil, Ira finds herself in the middle of a mess where her personal choices become intertwined with the fate of the building which she calls home. Will Ira’s life disintegrate with the crumbling building? Read the book to find out.
The book is a treat to someone who loves Mumbai or Bombay as it was called back then. The way the author talks about the city makes one fall in love with its history, its architecture – rustic old world charm served along with shabby infrastructure, smelly sewers, muddled mindsets and all. The author paints the picture of a middle class life in the city through descriptions of Ira’s, Kartik’s and Kaiz’s life, their families, their homes and their neighbourhoods. At times the musings, the descriptions tend to go off on a tangent, almost as if the author has gone off on a meandering train of thoughts, far away from where it had started. You tend to go with her because that’s just how the mood of the book is – nostalgic, melancholy, musing. Coming back to the original thought is like waking up of a reverie of your own. And yet the writing is not loose, its very much together, you see it as you move on with the story.
Read it on a slow rainy day, when time stands still, when you are in a mood to dive into nostalgia yourself. Its that kind of a book. And I loved it. The description said unputdownable and I agree. Not because of its pace but because of the lack of one, it’s a world that takes you in. I felt angry at Ira at times, Kaiz most of the times and eventually Kartik too. I questioned what I would do if I were any one of them and am not sure really, so I let go of my anger. That’s how real the portrayal of these characters is.