Book – The Mountains of Mumbai
Author– Labanya Ghosh
Illustrator– Pallavi Jain
Publisher– Karadi Tales
For someone who knows Mumbai the title itself is intriguing. Are there mountains in Mumbai, you wonder? The size of the book, in landscape format, is unusual, attractive and immediately catches the eye. The cover illustration of two regular looking girls in conversation with each other, their hair blowing in the breeze, and the famous Marine Drive of Mumbai in the background gives a hint into what is in store.
The story revolves around two friends — Veda and Doma. Veda lives in Mumbai and Doma is visiting her from Ladakh. As Doma navigate the colours, smells and sounds of Mumbai, she pensively tells her friend that she misses the mountains of Ladakh. Veda teases Doma about what qualifies as a mountain. Do they have to be rugged, ‘brown triangles’? Can’t anything tall, with a view of its surroundings and its culture qualify? Doma doesn’t think so. Veda says a mountain could be any shape and colour, even the colour of a rainbow. Doma is not convinced such mountains exist. She describes a proper mountain to Veda.
“Will the breeze blow cooler? Will your cheeks turn red? Will your heat beat as loud as the drums at the Hemis Tsechu Festival? And will you be able to see the whole world?”
Veda takes Doma on a quick trip – across the streets, up an unending flight of stairs. By the time they reach the top both are breathless. Veda is excited to share something with Doma, who is unsure. She throws open the door and both of them step on to the roof terrace of a skyscraper in Mumbai. From the roof Doma is able to see the whole world (whole of Mumbai at least), with the Marine Drive stretching as far as the eye can see on one side, and tall colourful buildings dotting the landscape on the other. The stunning double spread conveys the vastness of the city. At the same time the details bring the buildings alive. Veda had brought Doma to her very own mountain top in Mumbai, atop a tall building (amongst many tall buildings)!
And yes, the breeze is cooler, Doma’s heart beats faster, her cheeks turn red too!
The Mountains of Mumbai is a visual treat and the illustrations do justice to its extra-long landscape size. From the initial spreads, where the two friends walk on the pavement and visit a market the sights of Mumbai are brought alive through bold watercolour. One particular favourite is a bird’s eye view double spread of a busy city road, flanked by buildings on both sides.
When Veda takes Doma up the long flight of stairs we can see this is an old building, from the tiled flooring inside the lobby to the blue coloured tiles on the roof terrace. The never-ending stairs that take up another double spread in the book aptly convey the distance covered. Because aren’t mountains difficult to climb and aren’t we breathless by the time we reach atop one?
The characters in the story, whether the two friends or the other people populating the different spreads, are real and relatable. The story shows how we find joy in everyday things. Veda had not seen the mountains of Ladakh. But she identified with the feelings of Doma and found a similar experience in the city, amid concrete buildings and traffic. She is comfortable in her surrounding and confident of sharing it with her friend. Lastly, this book is about perspective, and how we can see a whole new point of view if we are open to listening and experiencing.