ECSAS 2023 – Turin 26-29 July

Mumbai in Chitre’s Novellas: four aspects of urbanity


Kulkarni Kedar A. - FLAME University, Humanities and Languages, Pune, India


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


     Of course Mumbai has a healthy share of scholarship that speaks to its status as a film city, a city of dreams, and its jarring inequality. Except for some recent work on Arun Kolatkar, however, much less has been written about Marathi literature whose settings, writers, and references offer a different slice of the Mumbai’s cosmopolitan world.

                My paper examines four novellas by Dilip Chitre, written between the 1960-1980s, that portray four different aspects of the city—but in the vernacular, and not written for a global audience. Urbanity in Chitre’s Chaturang (1995; The Bombay Quartet) meets expectations, but also undermines them: his writing is far more experimental than cliché can allow. Most important for this panel: over approximately twenty years of Chitre’s life, we read narratives about Mumbai that complicate notions of urbanity in India—and certainly of Mumbai itself. Sometimes, these intersect with the lives of Mumbai’s minorities, at other times, with life in Mumbai’s mills. And each encounter negotiates and creates its own definitions of urbanity, at once material, magical, engaged, and aesthetic.