It has been 2 years to this month since one of you recommended this book to me. (I do not remember who it was though!) And it also brings an end to my 3-month long drought of reading.
No God In Sight is the debut novel by Altaf Tyrewala. In a short 184 pages, various characters in Mumbai talk to the reader in an upclose The Circle style (remember That '70s Show?). It is through these journal-ish confessions that we learn about what is happening in their lives right now and in the city in the bigger picture. As we move on from one entry to the next, we discover that each character is related to the next. As the mind goes on this time-ride, a bigger picture emerges -- of the real urban India. (Though the author and the publisher seem to wish it is a picture of Mumbai, it is true about any Indian city.) No one is left behind -- Hindus, Muslims, doctors, terrorists, teenagers, slum dwellers, gangsters, traders, cops, everyone turns out to be connected to the other, though they would wish they were not.
The writing is realistic, the pace is unstoppable, the humour is dark, the characters are genuine and this definitely is the noisy, dusty, homely, quintessential Indian city familiar to anyone who has grown up in one. Less of a city, more like a super-mutated organism that somehow survives and thrives despite all odds against it. This is no Naipaul-ish distant cultured India, it is gritty in-your-face In-di-ya. The book was un-put-downable, I finished it in one sitting with no breaks. Recommended read (4/5).
Related: Rediff.com review.