Lights, Karma, Action

Daisy Rockwell in Chapati Mystery:

Amitava Kumar The quote at the beginning of this post is from the novel Home Products (Picador India, 2007), by Amitava Kumar, which will be published in the US in July 2010 under the title Nobody Does the Right Thing. I first heard this excerpt, along with other sections of the novel, presented as part of a year-long lecture series on ‘the city’ as a unit of study. Kumar’s lecture was the final presentation of what had been a series of buzz-word-heavy talks dealing exclusively with issues surrounding the ‘mega-city’—massive metropolises such as Bombay, Hong Kong and São Paolo. Kumar’s lecture itself was titled “Lights, Karma, Action: Report from Bombay.” As the series had progressed, I had been perplexed at the lack of attention being paid to all the lesser cities of the world, the also-rans, where millions of people live, but one can’t find a good wild-mushroom risotto for love nor money. I settled in for this final talk with low expectations: another afternoon, another trip to Bombay.

The lecture was, from the start, a surprise, as it was not a lecture at all, but a reading of a work of fiction. I kept waiting for the story to stop and the dry dissection to begin, but it never did. And what I, along with the rest of audience no doubt, had assumed would be a “report from Bombay” to us, the audience sitting in a lecture hall at a major research university in the United States, was instead a report from Bombay to Patna, the capital of Bihar. This change in direction was shocking and destabilizing, as we reversed direction to travel instead from mega-city to provincial city.

More here.