It's a poem. It's a story. It's many stories strung into one. All morbid and dark. With tragic ends and injustice. Stories about the unfairness of life. The greed and cruelty of men.
Stories you hear all the time.
It talks about religion and politics, rapists and molestors, drugs, dreams and death, the land mafia and the protesting tribals, apathy and decay, the stench of Mumbai, its ugly face or "fanny splayed open like a mouth at a dentist's office. All are welcome to sniff and prod and examine. All are welcome to move in if the smell is to one's liking."
It's gross. And beyond a point it stops jolting your sensitivity. Like the beggar kids near the traffic light. You see them, you ignore them. You're not bad. You just learn to see them as part of the landscape. Altaf Tyrewala puts Mumbai under the microscope. He is cynical. He is precise. He observes closely. He seems to see only the negative. Perhaps it makes for more powerful writing. I'm afraid he may have overdone it.
Ministry of Hurt Sentiments is the picture of a city, painted in dark, broad strokes.
"Seen through the steam from a five-buck cup of cutting
The future flaps around like a headless chicken
Spraying out iPods and hi-speed petrol"
A city that swears and seethes, suffers and inflicts suffering.
"Behind empathy-proof Skoda windows
Ride diamond-studded brittle egos
Cut them up and they'll f----ing cut you up
And dump you by the road next to Marx's mangled remains"
It's a hurt voice that, through the pages, turns into a tirade. Don't read it in one go. It's too shrill and bitter. But do give it a chance. It's a brave attempt.
Book: Ministry of Hurt Sentiments; By: Altaf Tyrewala; Price: Rs. 299; Format: Hardback; Extent: 104 pages; Category: Fiction