There are films inspired by or based on a book and then there are books which take a lot of their masala from Bollywood. Once Upon The Tracks of Mumbai by Rishi Vohra takes a lot of inspiration from masala Hindi movies. An autistic hero like SRK’s Rizwan Khan in My Name is Khan who has enormous body strength like Salman Khan in any of his movie, turns into a superhero like Hritik Roshan’s Krrish.

The book is a first person narration by Babloo who in his own words is autistic and suffers from split personality disorder. Technically speaking he suffers from Asperger Syndrome “that is characterized by significant difficulties in social interaction, alongside restricted and repetitive patterns of behavior and interests“. Babloo, elder of the two brothers is neglected by his family and while he dreams of achieving something big his parents are busy finding him a job as an office boy. The only thing that keeps Babloo sane is thinking about Vandana, a head strong independent girl who stays in the same colony. 

Babloo is fascinated by Vandana’s simplicity and beauty and secretly loves her while Vandana is busy dreaming of her own independent life in the USA. Trouble brews when Vandana is engaged to Babloo’s self centered chauvinistic younger brother Raghu. In order to break free from the burden of losing her independence Vandana gets involved with Sikander, the local cable guy whose sole aim is to sleep with as many women as he can. 

Oblivious from all the going-ons around him, Babloo is busy finding his purpose in life when he suddenly finds himself in the spotlight. In an attempt to save a woman from goons Babloo is made into a super hero ‘Railman’…because the woman was saved near the railway tracks. He walks on Mumbai’s railway tracks dressed as a superhero in the night and moonlights as a peon in his father’s office in the morning. While media and the people support the Railman police hates him and wants him behind bars. Babloo’s tryst as the superhero ends soon and he gets caught by the police. The court trial leads him to the mental asylum where he finally finds some people who he can relate to. From here, the story took an unrealistic turn for me. Babloo’s parents’ sudden change of heart, Vandana’s realization that she loves Babloo, Babloo finding a job and settling down with Vandana…all happens in the last 4-5 pages of the book.

Happily ever afters are good but only when they happen under realistic circumstances. However, despite not agreeing with the end I like the fact that Rishi Vohra has command over the language and has used the most important element of Mumbai, it’s railway tracks, to weave the story. Once Upon The Tracks Of Mumbai is a decent read if not a must read.

Book: Once Upon The Tracks Of Mumbai
Author: Rishi Vohra
Publisher: Jaico Books
Price: Rs 175
Pages: 266