City Vibes #BookBytes 23

Hola folks! 

It’s #BookBytes time and today we’re talking cities, through book quotes, of course. The best way to get to know a city, other than actually living there, is through a book. If only geography was taught through fictional tales I’d have absolutely fallen in love with it. The sights, the sounds, the streets, the markets, pubs, bistros, coffee shops – an author has the power to bring it all alive for us making us live the city with his/her characters.

I recently finished reading Elizabeth Gilbert’s The City of Girls and it gives a wonderful feel of New York of the 1940s. I have travelled to Istanbul with Elif Shafak (The Bastard of Istanbul), Afghanistan with Khaled Hosseini (The Kite Runner) and closer home I roamed the lanes of Malgudi with RK Narayan (Malgudi Days), the streets of Mumbai with Rohinton Mistry (A Fine Balance), and Calcutta with Dominique Lapierre (The City of Joy). What an absolute delight these books have been!

I’ve picked a quote from Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts, a book I read long time ago that describes Bombay with accurate poignancy.

“Mumbai is the sweet, sweaty smell of hope, which is the opposite of hate; and it’s the sour, stifled smell of greed, which is the opposite of love. It’s the smell of Gods, demons, empires, and civilizations in resurrection and decay. Its the blue skin-smell of the sea, no matter where you are in the island city, and the blood metal smell of machines. It smells of the stir and sleep and the waste of sixty million animals, more than half of them humans and rats. It smells of heartbreak, and the struggle to live, and of the crucial failures and love that produces courage. It smells of ten thousand restaurants, five thousand temples, shrines, churches and mosques, and of hundred bazaar devoted exclusively to perfume, spices, incense, and freshly cut flowers. That smell, above all things – is that what welcomes me and tells me that I have come home.

Gregory David Roberts, Shantaram

Have you read a book that brought alive a city for you? A contemporary read?

If you had to describe your city in a word, or a sentence maybe, what would it be?

As always, thoughts from fellow Bibliophiles brighten my day. I’d love to hear from you.


If you stumble upon a quote, a line (or two) or even a passage from a book that leaps out at you demanding to be shared join in with #BookBytes.

Here’s what you have to do:

  • Share it on your blog and link back to this latest post.
  • Put in the logo (above) so it’s easy to spot.
  • Leave the link to your blogpost in the comments so I can drop by too.
  • Book Bytes goes live every 1st and 3rd Tuesday of the month. Do join in.

The next edition of BookBytes goes live on Tuesday, February 4th.

14 Replies to “City Vibes #BookBytes 23”

  1. I read Shantaram years ago, and I don’t think I could finish the book. But these lines perfectly describe my city!
    I agree if Geography had been taught through fictional tales, I would have done better in my exams! And loved the subject, too. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Gosh you have been really roaming the world via the books that you have been reading. If only geography was taught like this too- we would all be acing this subject without any doubts 😉

    I havent read this book (nor am planning to) but this quote has such a literal feel to it and reminds me of the multitudes of frames from the art cinema of the 80s.

    I have been meaning to join in the book quotes Tulika- before the month ends, shall add my post to this.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Do join in Shalini. I’d love to see how you interpret a quote, or how it speaks to you.
      As for travelling through books – I’m sure you’ve done it too.


    1. I haven’t read that one. Checking it out now on Goodreads. Shantaram requires a bit of perseverance, it’s a long book but I enjoyed it.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Oh, I loved Mumbai through Gregory David Roberts’ eyes and words. Loved his description of Dhobhi Ghat, Leopold Cafe, Chor Bazaar etc! I think, I am going to reread this book again.
    Khalid Hosseini’s description of Afghanistan is beautiful too.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I know, right? There are some places in Mumbai that I feel I know intimately only because of this book. The descriptions are so detailed – and not just the physicality of it but the entire vibe.


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