Milk teeth, by Amrita Mahale
Publication date: 22 November 2018
Length: 312 Pages
Format: Kindle Edition
Ira Kamat and Kartik Kini are childhood friends residing in a building in Matunga – one of the first planned suburbs of Mumbai. A meeting is taking place on the terrace of the building to decide the fate of the crumbling structure and the future of the families that have been residing there for years.
Ira is a journalist who hunts for stories on corruption that’s rife in almost every government organization in our city. Kartik works in an MNC, living a life that he has concealed from his parents all through his youth. And, between the two of them, is the city of dreams with its vividness, its vibrancy, and its ugly underbelly.
I first heard about the book from a friend, who suggested I read it. Some days later, I read about it being recommended by Twinkle Khanna in one of her columns. It is a story set in my city; how could I not grab the link shared by my friend when he offered it to me? And, boy, what a story it was! Riveting, engrossing, unputdownable–I finished it in four days.
It paints a vivid image of the middle-class families residing in this building. Their lifestyle, their mindset, their values, their language, all of it reminiscent of a typical middle-class family from Amchi Mumbai.
The plot of the story is the resident’s fight against the redevelopment of their building – Asha Niwas – by the owner of the building. The tenants want to continue staying in the structure even in its dilapidated condition. Either that or they expect their landlord to hand over the keys to a new flat in the high-rise that would be built in place of the building.
The characters are relatable. The older generation clutching their old-world principles, and the younger generation striving to change with the times; embracing the new lifestyle, fighting to bring about change in their society.
It particularly resonated with me because a couple of months ago, my father, too, received a proposal for re-development of the row houses in his area. It was just a letter that did not need any immediate action, but it affected me and my nephew so much, the anxiety was palpable.
I have lived there since 1977, so, of course, I am in love with it. It may be more than 40 years old, but it holds so many memories for me. My nephew has lived there for a mere 10 years and yet, he, too, couldn’t envision leaving the house and moving into a high-rise. So, yes, I could very well relate to the apprehensiveness of the characters on receiving the news of the re-development.
WHAT I LIKED:
The humor, the characters with their eccentricities, the atmosphere of Matunga that was so perfectly captured by the author, the romance that’s a part of every aspect of the city–all of it was so evocative, so gripping, it was almost tangible!
WHAT I DID NOT LIKE:
Not much to report here, but Kartik’s backstory felt unnecessary as it somehow seemed to disrupt the flow of the story, and felt predictable in places. My eagerness to learn about Ira and Kartik’s life had to be curtailed to endure the lengthy story about Kartik that didn’t feel exciting. At least some part of it.
The romance between the characters felt fresh, unlike the usual romance stories that I read ages ago. The characters felt alive, with their idiosyncrasies, their annoying habits, and their old-world charm. I wished there was more to the story when I reached the end.
So, all in all, this was a lovely, breezy story that had me hooked right till the end. I would recommend it to readers in their early twenties, right up to their forties.
I give it 4.5 stars.
*This is my Review of the Month for the Review Collection at LovelyAudioBooks