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No God in Sight Paperback – 15 Nov 2005


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Product details

  • Paperback: 184 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books India (15 Nov 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0144000601
  • ISBN-13: 978-0144000609
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 1.3 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,569,311 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By A. Ross TOP 500 REVIEWER on 1 Aug 2006
Format: Paperback
Tyrewala's debut novel is a plotless but vibrant trip through contemporary Mumbai (aka Bombay) which calls to mind films such as "Short Cuts." However, here the characters lives don't weave in and out of each other's, but connect in a linear line from one to the next, sometimes by the barest of threads. The fifty chapters are mostly brief, 2-5 pages or so, and comprise brief glimpses into the lives of a wide cast of characters which collectively comprise a kind of central character--citizen of Mumbai. The opening chapters dispel the notion right away that this is going to be another sentimental or romanticized excursion to a Western notion of an exotic India. It starts in the shabby offices of a cut-rate abortionist, a medical student who couldn't quite hack the exams to become a full doctor and has to eke out a living on the edges. The abortionist, like many of the characters, is a Muslim who must gingerly make his way in a Hindu-dominated world, and this tension becomes a running theme.

The book shifts perspective from the abortionist to his father to his father's boss, and so on. Tyrewala employs this structural device in order to show the broad spectrum of people living in the megacity--gangster, shoe store clerk, dissolute youth, jaded cop, door-to-door insurance salesman, butcher, CEO, refugees, journalist, hopeful immigrants to the U.S., and many more. However, the book's central weakness is that there's generally no room to develop these characters beyond their one defining profession or characteristic, and so they become little more than animated props. Even in the the way they speak or think, there's little variation in how they express themselves.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 6 reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
A Glimpse at 50 of Mumbai's 13 Million People 1 Aug 2006
By A. Ross - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Tyrewala's debut novel is a plotless but vibrant trip through contemporary Mumbai (aka Bombay) which calls to mind films such as "Short Cuts." However, here the characters lives don't weave in and out of each other's, but connect in a linear line from one to the next, sometimes by the barest of threads. The fifty chapters are mostly brief, 2-5 pages or so, and comprise brief glimpses into the lives of a wide cast of characters which collectively comprise a kind of central character--citizen of Mumbai. The opening chapters dispel the notion right away that this is going to be another sentimental or romanticized excursion to a Western notion of an exotic India. It starts in the shabby offices of a cut-rate abortionist, a medical student who couldn't quite hack the exams to become a full doctor and has to eke out a living on the edges. The abortionist, like many of the characters, is a Muslim who must gingerly make his way in a Hindu-dominated world, and this tension becomes a running theme.

The book shifts perspective from the abortionist to his father to his father's boss, and so on. Tyrewala employs this structural device in order to show the broad spectrum of people living in the megacity--gangster, shoe store clerk, dissolute youth, jaded cop, door-to-door insurance salesman, butcher, CEO, refugees, journalist, hopeful immigrants to the U.S., and many more. However, the book's central weakness is that there's generally no room to develop these characters beyond their one defining profession or characteristic, and so they become little more than animated props. Even in the the way they speak or think, there's little variation in how they express themselves. Still, the reader is given enough insight into their lives to understand some sense of the magnitude of the struggle for daily survival. And as the title indicates, this struggle must be undertaken alone, since no one else is going to be looking out for you. What Tyrewala is much more successful at it showing us the city itself (current population is around 13 million), from the run down clinic, to gore-splattered chicken butchers, to shabby slum high-rise, to dusty shoe store, and garish singles bar, we get a real sense of place.

The book is short, manageable in a single sitting, and definitely worth reading by anyone with an interest in modern India or simply daily life in the world's megacities. There are no startling insights or moments of brilliance, simply many measured portrayals of the human condition.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
city life has never been captured better 2 Feb 2006
By Binal Ghelani - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Altaf Tyrewala's bestselling debut novel is a brilliant collective first person account of the pulsating metropolis Mumbai. The fascinatingly crafted, racy monologues add a sense of immediacy and unpredictability. the book is at once witty, surreal and dark, giving out a sense of larger forces at work. With the characters grappling with demonds - both inner and social, no God's gonna come from the skies and show you a path, each one has to work out his own destiny. (hence the tittle) The book captures confined existences in mumbai - something that is not really unique to just this city, rather anyone who's ever lived in a bustling city can relate to the experiences narrated in the book. All in all, a fantastic read!
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Merry-go-round on modern Mumbai 21 Oct 2007
By Magalini Sabina - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Very similar in structure to Schnitzler's La Ronde (I wonder if the Author knew Schnitzler's play or at least the 1950 movie "La Ronde" by Ophuls), and Edgar Lee Master's "Spoon River Anthology", with a merry-go-round of characters only tangentially linked to each other, this 2005 Indian novel has gained worldwide acclaim. Altaf Tyrewala, after a degree in the States, lives in Mumbai and has worked in the e-learning industry. This experience has taught him how to synthesize personalities in short phrases and minute sketches. Juxtaposing about 50 people he creates a microworld inside Mumbai's eighteen million inhabitants, fourteen languages, eight religions, bringing to life this prototype of megalopolis of the post-industrial Third World. Between a video-clip and a tragic and comic theatrical piece we meat a variegated humanity that deals with day to day problems, traditions, progress and poverty, especially poverty that conditions and forges lives. The other dominant theme is discrimination, mostly Hindus against Moslems, but also against Sikhs and people from different casts against each other. No solidarity, no hope, no god in sight. Cynical, true and fascinating. A fast and satisfactory read.
"Who will avenge the past and drive the outsiders out?" 5 Sep 2006
By Luan Gaines - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
The heart of this intense novel is revealed through a series of vignettes, all taking place in or near the bustling, poverty-riddled city of Mumbai (Bombay), an eclectic cast of characters embodying the confusion and dissension of post-Colonial India. Fifty loosely connected narratives are the framework of the story, a city defined by opposition, religious and political differences exacerbated by the ubiquitous and demeaning poverty that stamps the entire region with roiling hatreds and dissatisfactions.

Begun at the abortionist's office, the stories conclude there as well, come full circle, embracing the terrible realities of daily survival for the thousands of industrious workers, slum-dwellers, street people, sycophants and unemployed masses, all mired in the poverty of the streets, each small world pushed and pulled by those who intrude by the sheer force of their numbers, Muslims, Sikhs, Hindus, Buddhists, every denomination thrust into proximity with those they detest, divided by beliefs, loyalties, tradition, financial and social status, a constant jockeying for position.

Although each story assumes the rhythm of the one before it, voices unexpectedly monotonous, the characters are vastly different, their repetitive monologues belied by the details of each, as well as pervasive hints of hopefulness throughout, always another idea or opportunity, one more chance to try something else, an endless application of resources in pursuit of problem-solving. An underlying theme, "tomorrow is another day", imbues these disparate tales with a consistent hum of energy, the city itself the main protagonist, drawing all to her center like the sun.

The threads connecting the stories as fragile as the individuals caught in the crossroads of their particular histories, moving from scene to scene, rat-infested slums, swinging singles bars, an abortionist's sterile office, all teeming with the subtle urgencies of a population driven to survive the exigencies of daily life, brief moments of triumph are sufficient to sustain most until another day. This small, rambling novel is compelling, the city filled with a spirit of inventiveness, embracing, destroying and sustaining those randomly cast at fate's door. Luan Gaines/2006.
0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Excellent debut 7 Feb 2007
By C. Vasani - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I am really proud of the fact that Altaf (my good friend and ex roommate) has finally materialized his brilliant writing skills into this wonderfully unique book that bluntly outlays the realities of the minorities (muslims) in India. I hope to see him continue producing quality work with such unique dark sense of humor with a blend of reality. Bravo!
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