Bookish Witch

The Cockroach and I by Saranya Subramanian

Book blurb:

RUNNER-UP OF THE 2020 BODLEY HEAD / FINANCIAL TIMES ESSAY PRIZE

‘It’s an exhausting, futile battle, really. Every night, the same smug cockroach squeezes herself out of my bathroom drain’s grilled lid, scuttles into the toilet and shower area, and waltzes around like she owns the place.’

The Cockroach and I is an astonishingly vivid, funny, trenchant portrait of life in Bombay in 2020 during the pandemic. It is alive to the nameless and the numberless of the city, alive to history, and alive to the special strangeness of a year of living surrounded by death and uncertainty.

Here are innumerable human beings pushed inside their homes while insects and animals roam freely, each playing their roles.

Genre: Non-fiction/Essay

Pages: 17

Format: Kindle eBook

Price: 0 INR/$ 0.00

My Ratings: 4.2/5

This book/essay was like holding a mirror to the our actions and a flashback at the year that 2020 has been. The commentary on the life in Mumbai is vivid and satirical. Read this one for some stats, insights and thoughtful takes about our lives (especially in metro cities)

What I liked about the book:
–> Being from Bombay, I could instantly and easily connect to every aspect about the city narrated and talked about in this essay.
–> The subtle analogical nature of the chase between the cockroach and the protagonist.
–> The hardships of the 2020 lockdown on one and all, especially the labour class and daily wage earners.
–> How it brings out the stark difference between the higher and lower class in Bombay.
–> Rightly points out the importance of migrant workers in the day-to-day smooth functioning of the city.
–> A short yet impactful read.

What I did not like about the book:
–> There seems to be no closure to the essay.
–> I wish there was more to the essay than just stats and figures.

Quotable quotes:
–> I live in a concrete jungle, on land wrestled from the sea. Bombay, the name I use for what is officially Mumbai, was built by the British by screwing together seven islands, seven different patches of land, with the aim of creating a seaport. Little did the colonisers know that they were fashioning their own Frankenstein’s monster.
–> Life in Bombay can be a luxury-injected addictive dream for anyone who can afford it, and also a slow, painful passing into death for those who cannot.
–> The higher a high-rise is, the further away are the stench and noise of the city’s ubiquitous gutters, landfills and sorrowful streetlife.
–> Life in Bombay is built on short-term happiness, on highs that make people soar and momentarily forget everything else.
–> Migrant workers to Bombay are what foundations are to a building. The city cannot function without grocery vendors, sanitation workers, basket weavers, musicians and theater performers, animal carers, guards and drivers, cobblers, flower sellers, hawkers, labourers and small-business entrepreneurs. To name a few.
–> People of the working class are first utilized to build industries and are then left on the streets to fend for themselves. They stand as spillovers of this uneven development.
–> Bombay is plagued not just by the coronavirus; it’s been sick for years with an infectious need to constantly capitalise on space.
–>In a country where numbers are everything, people become statistics. Either punched in or punched out. Uncounted, or uncountable. Or entirely unaccounted for.

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