Book Review: Non-fiction/ Nobody can love you more by Mayank Austen Soofi, Penguin, 225p; Rs399 (Hardback)
Mayank is not laconic as a writer and he also breaks the stereotypical views. His book-Nobody can love you more on Delhi’s red light area, Garstin Bastion Road confirms it. GB Road, as it’s known popularly considered generally the work place for ‘fallen women’, pimps and visitors without identity or moral position.
But it’s an existing world, with running oldest profession of the civilisation and also of other petty trades. Here flesh traded and could be seen from the corner, unlike Delhi’s alternative elite flesh trade market, which was estimated last year for more than 500crore rupees per annum. Those are nut run from ‘red light area’ and the stories from that part of the world could not be made ‘vulgar and bawdy’.
Indian writing in English has followed a trend of pacifying the difficult subjects through prejudices-this book appears in contradiction of such odds by humanizing the narrative on unknown catalysts from a famous street for inglorious reasons. Sabir Bhai’s Kotha#300 and his five women tenant are the central characters of the book.
Mayank is not alien for them, they know he is a different person and he is here for chronicalising their live and knowing the plight from close quarters. So the interaction between writer and his characters come so natural that a reader may find an easy position on those conversations. They observe happiness, despair and also care for the baggage of history-their beingness as ‘holy sinner’ is not by-chance, rather which routes through the social norms of looking ‘weaknesses for ugliness’.
Earlier, I liked Louise Brown’s The Dancing Girls of Lahore on Lahore’s Heera Mandi but on Delhi’s similar grim truths, I had no proper book to refer until I read Nobody can love you more in a single seat and with deep engagement. Even though, momentously, the beauty of writer’s humane concern for these women and their affiliates stop devolving them beneath the optimal of existence.
The reading of this book allows ones to know, choices alone don’t make the fate. Sometime, even treading in particular direction happens unknowingly and that finally converge the bigger reality for streamlining with those miss-stepped. Still, the compulsions of life stay and these determines the state of ‘wretchedness or escapism’ amidst bitter turn-up of situation.
The author’s lively account of spent time with those residents of G.B.Road allows seeing a much different and genuine picture of the inner world. Like everything, G.B.Road also has a history and surprisingly it’s rich in the sense, it had once better reputation among the middle and upper classes. It was not that those days, flesh was not into trade, but then it was not taken so hypocritically and not given the fringe as destination.
So, it seems unusual when a young working journalist is chasing these lives with darkness in background. He shares the experiences, perspectives with few of the persons, for G.B Road holds a separate existence from rest nieghbourhood of swiftly changing Delhi. At some point, distinction diversifies and then author makes quest to see these lives vis-à-vis the world around them.
Here he finds the ‘civilisational gap’-the meaning of civilisation, though would be difficult to reckon and decode in general understanding. Sipping unfried daal at kotha ,if gives a particular sense of humanity it soon evaporates under the heavy commercial pressure, while sipping coffee at a plush restaurant of Connaught Place.
But Mayank keeps trying to proximate the two types of world, for better sake and reaching closer to the lives outpaced G.B Road. Writing on living things with difficult details is such a daunting and unfashionable task. It’s nice, this book has start getting attention from serious readers-nevertheless, unlikely that many more books of this taste would be written on the similar theme. As bearing the lives of marginalised is painful, and not taken by the majority for worth doing, alas!
Still hope is somewhere that the cities would stop making areas, red light or unholy for shock& awe magnetism. The beginning is remarkable here with Mayank Austen Soofi’s Nobody can love you, so it should be remain imminent as a formidable entry in non-fiction category. This book deserves reading, a bit of following too but never ‘clapping’!
-Atul K Thakur
(Published in The Kashmir Walla on May8,2013)