ECSAS 2023 – Turin 26-29 July

Imagining Mumbai: Cosmopolitanism and religion in the novels of Kiran Nagarkar


Keul István - University of Bergen, Bergen, Norway


08 – Imagining the city: Literary and religious practices of urbanity in early modern and modern South Asia


 While contemporary historians and sociologists have provided sobering analyses of recent socio-political developments in the city, the idea of Mumbai as the modern, progressive and cosmopolitan metropolis continues to persist among its present-day residents. A city of unique cultural diversity, Mumbai is home to a wide range of culturally mixed residential constellations, composite spaces of socio-religious dynamics frequently depicted over the past decades in literary and cinematographic works. Arguably no other Indian city than Mumbai could have accommodated Ravan and Eddie, the main characters of Kiran Nagarkar’s trilogy of novels published between 1995 and 2015 (Ravan & Eddie; The Extras; Rest in Peace). The unlikely friendship between the two, one a Maharashtrian Hindu, the other a Goan Catholic, has its starting point in one of Mumbai’s public housing structures, the so-called chawls, veritable galleries of the city’s multicultural, religiously plural life. The presentation discusses selected passages from the trilogy, in which Nagarkar aptly plays with the ‘self-governing cliché’ of Mumbai’s cosmopolitanism and the pragmatics of dealing with the religiously different Other.